Given my fondness for tavern fare, I was surprised I had never been to Lake Springfield Tavern. I've driven by hundreds of times, and I don't think I even recognized that it was a tavern. Folks tell me that Lake Springfield Tavern has been around since Stevenson Drive was a dirt road. And, from exterior appearances and the condition of the parking lot, it didn't appear that much had changed since those days. And that's something we're thankful for.

LST, as Lake Springfield Tavern is known, is your traditional bar and restaurant. The walls are wood paneled, much like a cottage, and decorated with signs for various beverages and video screens. The seating is tight and close together, and the footprint isn't all that big. Of course, this being Springfield, video gaming is available. On a side note, unlike many taverns throughout town, LST's men's bathroom was very clean.

We visited on a rainy day and LST was almost full. Five of us managed to grab a high-top in the corner close to the kitchen. (Diners can see in, and it's a tight space. The staff were like acrobats moving here and there as they cooked on the line.)

I appreciate that every Monday LST lists its daily specials for the week on its Facebook page, which include such diverse options as sloppy joes, spaghetti, goulash and meatloaf. Wednesday is always fried chicken, and Friday is always fried fish (walleye, bluegill and catfish). As for the menu, it's what you would expect from a tavern – salads, burgers, sandwiches and Butch's pizza. Oh, and naturally enough, there are also horseshoes (including a walleye version, which I can't ever see ordering for myself).

The five of us started with a bowl of chili. Our server brought out a bowl of onions and a bowl of cheese as an add-on for no additional cost. This was tavern chili, with a healthy layer of grease sitting on top that easily combines with the other elements once mixed thoroughly. The consensus was that it needed more spice and had too many beans, but we all ate it. Of interest, I went back a few weeks later with a friend and again ordered a bowl. This time there was a much better meat-to-bean ratio and a bigger and bolder chili flavor.

For some reason I decided to go with the spaghetti, which was that day's special. It didn't really pair with chili, but I figured why not. It was a rather large helping, and it came with a piece of nicely toasted garlic bread. The sauce was a meat sauce reminiscent of a weeknight family pasta dinner when I was growing up and had just a hint of grease. I'm one who usually likes a higher sauce-to-meat ratio, so I appreciated that LST's version was about 50/50. I enjoyed every bit.

Two others in the group went for the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. It looked hand-breaded, it was a perfect brown but not overdone, and it came with a nicely toasted bun. It also came with a decent helping of fries and coleslaw. For the health-conscious, it's also available grilled. There were no complaints, just clean plates.

Another of the group went with the Joe Crain "Code Red" Burger. It was a good name as this was a quarter-pound ground-chuck patty topped with pepper jack cheese, chipotle sauce, jalapenos and onion straws. It looked a little messy to eat, but my guest enjoyed the jolt of heat from the sauce and jalapenos. He also found the crunch from the onion straws to be a fun textural element.

Our last diner went with the walleye sandwich. It came with chips and rye bread with onions, tartar sauce and pickles available on request. He found the fish to be well-seasoned (including a nice dash of salt) with a crunchy crust and flaky flesh. He would have preferred fries over chips, so we all donated some of ours to him. He otherwise enjoyed his dish.

There's definitely a regular crowd at LST, but non-regulars and first-timers are certainly welcomed. Service was attentive and incredibly friendly. LST's staff wants you to be happy, and it shows. We also appreciated that our food was served simultaneously – a rarity with so many of LST's competitors.

With reasonable prices, solid tavern food and good service, it's no wonder Lake Springfield Tavern has been around so long. Here's to many more years. Nice job, guys.

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