Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light Tavern has a long-standing positive reputation in Historic Smithville as a place that has served many regular customers for several years, co-owner Tony Coppola says.
So when the regulars walk through the tavern's doors, they come with high expectations and many good memories of their past experiences. But maintaining the good reputation isn't good enough, Coppola says. The goal is to constantly improve upon their success and keep things fresh.
"We strive to give just a little more than the customers expect," he says. "We don't just want to meet their needs, we want to exceed them. That's how you really make an exclamation point at the end of the meal."
The landmark tavern is one of two restaurants located on the site of the Towne of Historic Smithville, a charmingly-restored, colonial-style village of shops and attractions in the Smithville section of Galloway Township. The second restaurant in the privately-owned village is the Smithville Inn, which is a higher-end establishment than the former.
Coppola and his wife, Fran, along with their longtime friends Chuck and Laura Bushar are the co-owners of the Towne of Historic Smithville, which consists of one side of the lake at the core of the Historic Smithville village shops, the other side being the Village Green, which runs under the same model, but with a separate owner. The Coppolas and Bushars purchased their side of the village in 1997, which includes both Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light Tavern and the Smithville Inn.
When the two couples first took over ownership of the Towne of Historic Smithville, there weren't any restaurants on the property and most of the village's shops were vacant, Coppola says. Today, business in the Towne of Historic Smithville is in full swing and its future looks bright.
Coppola says he partly credits the rise to the two eateries, which he referred to as the "hub of the village."
"I like to use the analogy of a shopping mall," he says. "If the big name department stores all leave and you want to buy a pair of running shoes, you probably won't go to get them at the mall. So the big name department stores bring more business to the smaller stores. It's just the same with the restaurants. They are an integral part of the village and that's something we take very seriously. There are big implications to us failing - and failing isn't an option."
To keep the customers coming back and to add a newness to their experience, Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light Tavern's staff are constantly shaking things up and thinking of new concepts to add, from live entertainment to specialty food and drink options.
Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light Tavern has live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night starting at around 6:30 to 7 p.m. Depending on the crowd, the entertainment can go as late as 2 a.m., when the bar closes, Coppola says. Entertainment ranges from full bands to solo acoustic acts and there is never a cover charge to get in.
This weekend's lineup includes Joe of Motts Creek Pikers on Friday, Nov. 16, and Roger on Saturday, Nov. 17.
One of the newer additions to the tavern's offerings is its extensive craft beer menu featuring more than 20 varieties at any given time with a seasonal rotation. The tavern also has five additional draft beers on tap and offers wine by the glass or bottle and mixed drinks made to order. Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. daily.