Taking a Closer Look: Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge

There’s something refreshingly unassuming about the city of Grand Rapids.

We find that it’s perfectly content to go along its merry way, not looking to steal the spotlight, yet always finds a way of being discovered.

With its recent development into an international mecca of the arts, it makes perfect sense that a coffee shop should begin to bloom on every street corner, because as we all know, caffeine is the truest breeding ground for creativity.

While I find myself a regular face at many of the local Starbucks locations, a task all too simple considering the three locations within a three mile radius of my house; I find it thrilling when I come across a coffee establishment that mirrors the heartbeat of the city.

Sitting comfortably on the corner of Oaks and Commerce, deep in the Heartside district, the brainchild of local coffee and community enthusiast, Steve Wiltjer and his brother-in-law, Kevin Wallace has quickly developed into one of the most unique caffeine watering holes that the city has to offer.

Lantern’s atmosphere boasts an endearing sense of individuality from its slouching stocking caps and cascading tattoos to the soft spoken baristas behind the counter, maneuvering the tools of their trade to unveil a beverage that would qualify as a work of art.

 This particular evening, as I made my way to the counter to secure my Lantern favorite; the café miel, I commented on the skill of the beverage design that was given to me. The barista shrugged and smiled. 

"Not my best work," he said with a sheepish grin. An artist will forever be his greatest critic. 

The beauty of what Lantern offers is as simple as their slogan. “Good Coffee. A Place to Gather.”


So, the next time you happen down to the corner of Commerce and Oaks, stop in and discover what has elevated this humble shop to become such a jewel in the eye of the surrounding community. 

Make your way down the stairs to the lower entertainment level where local poetry and musical talent take the stage to proudly display their latest works for a captive audience. Sit and observe as individuals from every walk of life move in and out the door, finding a common ground in the appreciation for all their city has to offer.

Lantern has discovered the secret of capturing the heart of a city by giving voice to the next generation of artistic talent with a good cup of coffee and a place to gather.