Colonial dining, tavern style

The absurdity of sitting in Aromas and seeing a woman in a hoop skirt, bonnet and reading spectacles does not faze most College of William and Mary students. Reenactors, along with the entire Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, are part of the College’s culture. We go on cider runs, run through Colonial Williamsburg, and climb the wall of the Governor’s Palace. An essential part of the symbiotic relationship between students and Colonial Williamsburg is eating at one of the four colonial taverns.

Eating at the King’s Arms was a fantastic dining experience. Epitomizing the historical accuracy of the Colonial Williamsburg tavern experience, the restaurant has great service, rustic interior design, and a cozy ambience.

When I arrived at the King’s Arms, I was greeted and directed to a seat by a hostess in colonial attire. My server was friendly and attentive to my needs during lunch and I adored the traditional table setting. The silverware consisted of a standard plate, fork and knife combo, however, the other decorations, such as the candles and embossed china, emphasized the authenticity of the dining experience. The beautiful interior had rich red walls and gorgeous tables and chairs, making me feel like I was a member of the gentry back in the 1770s. The general vibe in the room was cheerful and cozy; everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying their food. Patrons ranged from children to senior citizens, but the tavern and its staff accommodated everyone. After a short 15 minutes, I received my food; it smelled heavenly.

Following the recommendation of a friend, I tried the homemade fried chicken. This fantastic entrée, called Mrs. Vobe’s Fried Chicken, came with three sides — a broiled tomato, potato skins and a rasher of salty ham — each of which complimented the chicken perfectly. The chicken was flavorful and warm — crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The meal was a wonderful fusion of tavern fare and southern cooking.

The King's Arms requires reservations for both lunch and dinner. COURTESY PHOTO / FLICKR.COM
The King’s Arms requires reservations for both lunch and dinner. COURTESY PHOTO / FLICKR.COM

The lunch menus at the King’s Arms are reasonably priced and within the same $10 to $17 range of the other Williamsburg tavern lunch menus. The dinner prices, however, are expensive. A standard dinner entrée at the King’s Arms is $30, which, in comparison to the Trellis and the Blue Talon, isn’t unreasonable. From a student’s perspective, a nice lunch at a tavern is an affordable option. The experience is wonderful and the food is delicious. I would, however, recommend finding an alternative location for dinner.

Each of the four Colonial Williamsburg taverns has a distinct character evident in its menu, dining experience and title. The King’s Arms is the gentile tavern with southern specialties. Shield’s Tavern is the comfortable and homey place to grab a bite. Patrons sit on beer hall benches and join together to enjoy a meal selected from traditional dishes and modern day sandwiches. Chowning’s Tavern is the brewing tavern, which crafts its own beer. It has live music and games called Gambols at 9 p.m. every night. The fourth tavern is Christina’s Campbell’s. Colonial Williamsburg claims Christina Campbell’s was George Washington’s favorite place to eat seafood and the entire menu pays homage to the Virginian seafood dishes.

Some of the famous dishes, like Christina Campell’s sweet potato muffins, are available outside the taverns. In Merchants Square, for example, I recommend going to Everything Williamsburg for a collection of easy, step-by-step recipes. Everything Williamsburg has cooking sauces, drinks and paraphernalia from all four taverns.


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