Few American restaurants can tout being older than the United States. King’s Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum, is one of them. The tavern first opened its doors in 1772 with a singular reputation—a place “where all the best people resorted,” proclaimed the tavern’s founder Jane Vobe. And that it was. The “public house” provided lodging and food to prominent politicians and soldiers fighting for (and against) American independence.
Today, the restaurant pays homage to this history by reproducing 18th-century food and fashion. Guests are greeted by servers and staff in traditional attire. Tables are adorned in pewter candlesticks, brass sconces, and serving pieces once popular with the Virginia gentry.
Moreover, the restaurant’s recently revamped menu boasts an impressive lineup of rigorously researched recipes. The names of some of the restaurant’s most prominent dishes, such as Mrs. Purdie’s Salat and Hunter’s Game Pye, come directly from colonial cookery books more than 200 years old.
Culinary historian Frank Clark and the Tavern’s head chef Keith Nickerson are committed to honoring the menu’s history—the entirety of that history, including the culinary influences and contributions of formerly enslaved and Indigenous peoples. Take “Peanut Soupe,” a variation of a recipe developed by the agricultural scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. The addition is a nod to the contributions of numerous African-American chefs often left out of the historical record.
Know Before You Go
Admission to Colonial Williamsburg is not needed to dine-in, but reservations are required. Be sure to call ahead to snag a table.