Winter at the shore is a tough thing to get excited about. This area was built for fun in the sun and in order to have that fun, the temps need to rise at least to the 70s.

But one thing winter offers is the opportunity to escape the cold by heading off to sip drinks at a warm, cozy bar. And nothing screams cozy quite like Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light Tavern.

Fred & Ethel’s has been a staple of Smithville Village since 1997 and the space bears a unique, casual charm with its rich dark woods, Tiffany lamps and rustic vibe. The atmosphere inside serves as the perfect visual and mental escape from the frosty winds of the parking lot.

What I got

I stopped in last week with a friend on a cold night with a crisp $20 in my hand and a pretty big appetite. After a few minutes looking over the menu, I went with an old favorite — a Brooklyn Brown Ale ($6). Brooklyn Brewery pre-dates the whole craft beer craze by quite a few years, but despite thousands of options, they remain my go-to brew.

For an appetizer we decided to split the Buffalo chicken wontons ($8) which ended up being a great choice. Deep-fried wontons filled with a creamy, spicy mound of shredded buffalo chicken and paired with an utterly delicious homemade blue cheese for dipping, this $4-a-man starter was a home run.

I thought about getting a few more beers and calling it a night, but Fred & Ethel’s dinner menu is an interesting one, so I opted to continue exploring it. Though they mostly feature well-known American dishes like burgers and sandwiches, they also have a variety of innovative items that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Once I spotted “The Governor” ($10) I knew I had to have it.

The Governor is a Frankenstein-esque cross between meatloaf, bread pudding and a bacon cheeseburger. Sounds odd? It certainly is. It’s also indescribably delicious. They take ground beef, onion, cheddar jack cheese and brioche bread, bake it in the over and serve the whole thing over shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes then finish it off with their Guinness cheese sauce, frizzled onions and a ketchup drizzle. Get it. You will be satisfied. Just trust me on this.

The Total

After knocking back one of my favorite beers ($6), splitting a fantastic app ($4 each) and plowing through an out of this world entrée ($10)I left Fred & Ethel’s fully satisfied and exactly $20 down. An all-around success.

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