The Lantern opened its doors back when gasoline cost 32 cents a gallon and shiny ‘66 Mustangs cruised Chicago Avenue. Every day since, their philosophy of good, simple food and enjoyable times has not wavered.
Maybe this is one place where time stands still – in a good way.
This is how the oldest tavern in Naperville works: The staff’s tenure is counted in decades, not days; burgers are freshly ground every morning; Hamm’s beer coasters wait at your fingertips; “Free Beer Tomorrow“ signs hang on the crowded walls; and people actually have conversations.
For Teri Feldott, The Lantern’s manager and daughter-in-law of founder Don Feldott, the secret to success is simple: “We haven’t made a lot of changes since our opening. Not sure we will.”
As you parade in under the many neon signs and abundant supply of lanterns, don’t be surprised if you’re attracted to its friendly humility. Sure, there are dozens of beers on tap, a Budweiser popcorn machine, and flat screens to keep you sports-informed. But wall to wall, 53 years of history wears well here.
In a city that’s changed as much as Naperville, it’s good to have a cornerstone (both literally and figuratively) still inspiring block parties and keeping generations close.
Tammy Mores, the afternoon bartender for the last 18 years says, “I have regulars, yes. But through the years, I’ve seen families grow up right in front of my eyes here. That’s something you don’t see at most bars.”
I believe one hallmark of a great authentic establishment is its ability to attract customers of all ages and all types. Such a confluence proves universal appeal.
When I came in for a burger one rainy Tuesday afternoon, I sat between a wealthy financier in premium golf wear playing backgammon on his phone, and a cool, black-shirted hipster with baseball cap pointed to the side. Neither of them seemed out of place or judged, they just wanted their rum and cokes or cold beer, and hearty grub.
Which takes me to the menu. Burgers are the main attraction, hand-pressed with meats from the local butcher Casey’s down the street. The chili is made with the same meat and kept subtly seasoned to please all palates.
Tuna melts. Hotdogs. Salads of all varieties. They all look like they’ve been comfortably part of the menu for decades. Food like this doesn’t need changing.
As I was leaving. I saw a couple order “Hawgwings” a plump porky version of the poultry wings you might be used to eating. Big treats indeed. Teri told me the saying about them: “Order those once and you’ll order them every time you come in.’
Which, if history repeats itself, could be for many years to come.
The Lantern is located at 8 W Chicago Avenue in downtown Naperville – two blocks from the Filson store at 41 W Jefferson Ave. Open from 10am-1am daily.