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Chowning’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg

Chowning's Tavern

The polished wooden tables gleam in the candlelight.  The air is rich with the mingled aromas of meaty, 18th-century fare and the plentiful colonial libations of beer, ale, and rum.  A roving musician plays the fiddle.

Chowning’s Tavern is a rebuilt ale-house at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  It offers three beers, three ales, two ciders, and seven wines.  It also has fortified cocktails ranging from a “Classic Mint Julep” to the rum-based “Witches Revenge”.  If you feel like sharing, Sangaree and Fish House Punch are available by the bowl.

The reasonably priced menu includes dishes based on 18th-century recipes, and it even provides brief descriptions of the preparations.  On my most recent visit, I enjoyed the Onion Pye, made with layers of pared potatoes, onions, and apples, “strewing seasoning between”, and baked under a “good crust”.

A stand-out appetizer is the Welsch Rarebit, made with cheddar cheese, mustard, and “good wine” and served with “Mr. Chowning’s bread” and fabulous “country ham”.

An intriguing dessert is the “Snow Eggs”, custard sauce topped with meringues, based on the recipe of Thomas Jefferson’s chef James Hemmings.

Josiah Chowning opened his Tavern in the late 16th century.  It was a popular spot until it was torn down before the Civil War.  Colonial Williamsburg built the authentic reconstruction in 1941.

What to Know before You Go to Chowning’s Tavern


Chowning’s Tavern is located at 109 E. Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg, closer to Merchant Square than to the Capitol.  Behind the building, the outdoor Chowning’s Tavern Garden Grill serves a menu of 21st-century lunch items like burgers during the day.  Next door, Chowning’s Tavern Cider Stand offers soft drinks and light snacks during the day.

If you’re staying at a Colonial Williamsburg hotel, you may park there.  If you’re staying at an off-site hotel and visiting for the day, you may park at the Visitor Center and take a shuttle bus to and from the Historic Area.  If you’re just coming to eat, you may park in the Tavern lot off Francis Street E.

Casual attire is fine.

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