Like Moths to a Flame: Gravitate to The Lantern Inn for Wood-Fired Pizza & Craft Beer | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Like Moths to a Flame: Gravitate to The Lantern Inn for Wood-Fired Pizza & Craft Beer 

In the Wee Hamlet of Wassaic, A Culinary Oasis

Last Updated: 05/26/2021 11:37 am
click to enlarge Wood-fired pizza at the Lantern Inn in Wassaic
  • Wood-fired pizza at the Lantern Inn in Wassaic

The Lantern Inn looks deceptively modern for a building that’s 100 years old. At various times it has served the Wassaic community as a tavern, a private residence, and a pool hall. As the longtime local watering hole, the Lantern’s fare has evolved from microwaved bar bites to farm-to-table fare in the eight years since the founders of the Wassaic Project bought the building.

While wood-fired pizza is The Lantern’s mainstay, the menu also features salads, vegetable sides, pasta dishes, and a Angus beef burger that people reportedly travel an hour for. The Lantern sources locally as much as possible, working with producers like Sky Farm in Millerton for mixed greens, as well as local breweries like Dutchess Ales in Wassaic. There’s a handful of beers on drafts, all local with one exception. That tap has been pouring Budweiser for 43 years, and it’s not about to change anytime soon. “The Lantern needs its one tap of Bud,” says Erika DaSilva, part of The Lantern’s leadership team.

“We try to push the envelope for food,” DaSilva says. Under head chef Johnny Dearth, who hails from Michelin-starred Faro in Brooklyn, the Lantern Inn’s menu leans Italian, with an emphasis on seasonality. Per DaSilva, the goal is “simple—but a tiny bit elevated.” On the whole, the staff is mostly young people not from food backgrounds, fresh out of high school or still in it. Despite their lack of prior experience, they’ve become talented cooks, and customers can watch them at work through The Lantern’s open kitchen. The Lantern is family friendly, with booths along the wall, long communal tables, and a fireplace in the corner. The pea gravel patio in the back has been reborn from a motorcycle lot to into a garden oasis with picnic tables arranged around a campfire, flowering shrubs, and string lights.

DaSilva describes The Lantern as “a little divey—in the best way.” The bar has an old-timey feel, with historical artwork and maps of Wassaic on the walls. Though the bar has been a bit lonely due to COVID-19, The Lantern still welcomes a mix of customers. The establishment has long-standing relationships with locals, like Conrad, who has been drinking at the bar for 50 years. Over the years, the dining room has filled with more people from New York City, some of whom began coming as weekenders and are now full-time residents.

DaSilva and her husband, Minh Le, made that same decision three years ago when they came up to Wassaic to run The Lantern Inn (Lee is the restaurant's GM). They wanted to continue their work in the hospitality industry while starting a family—a combo that was near-impossible to come by in New York City. Until recently, they lived directly above The Lantern, which enabled them to quickly alternate between family and restaurant affairs. When their daughter, Bebe, was little, they would grab a baby monitor, go down to the restaurant to check on things like deliveries, and come right back upstairs. “It’s unheard of for restaurant culture,” DaSilva chuckles. They balanced work and family, able to continue to greet newcomers and “share through food.”

The Lantern has historically brought a sense of community to Wassaic, a warm openness that DaSilva and the staff extend to new customers. People from Millbrook, Millerton, Amenia, and Wassaic have been coming for decades, bridging generations and backgrounds at the bar. Down the street, the Wassaic Project, a nonprofit arts organization founded in 2008 in a converted grain elevator, has put the hamlet on the map. Their revolving residency program draws artists from all over the world to Wassaic for a few months at a time. The Lantern is the only restaurant within walking distance of their studios, and it’s become a hub for these artists to talk to each other and take a break from the studio.

It was these same artists who helped DaSilva build the Wassaic Newsstand, a bimonthly pop-up with 40 independent and niche food and arts publications, which debuted alongside The Lantern last August. Anyone involved in the newsstand events has agreed to donate 10 percent of their sales to a food or arts nonprofit. When the Newsstand is open, local kids in the neighborhood bring out lemonade stands and coffee carts alongside it. For DaSilva, the Newsstand inhabits “an awesome, raw space” at the intersection of food and art. The Lantern and the Wassaic Project are closely intertwined, and the Newsstand is “a little box right in the middle of the two.”

The Lantern Inn is open for outdoor dining and takeout Friday through Sunday, 4-8:30pm. The Newsstand is open bimonthly beside The Lantern, with all weekend dates for publications and food events on their website.

The Lantern Inn
10 Main Street, Wassaic, NY 12592
(845) 373-8389

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