- Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia offers lots of lunch options, from 18th-century fare in the Historic Area to modern meals in Merchants Square.
- The King’s Arms Tavern is the best spot to keep the colonial vibe alive over lunch.
- Colonial Williamsburg is compact enough to walk, but there is a complimentary shuttle bus for ticketed visitors who prefer to ride.
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is a unique place to enjoy a taste of early American history.
As you stroll the brick sidewalks from site to site, you’re going to need lunch. Fortunately, you have lots of choices, from hearty 18th-century tavern fare in the Historic Area to familiar modern meals in Merchants Square. They’re all within walking distance of one another, but there is a shuttle bus for ticketed visitors if you prefer.
Having visited, and eaten in, Williamsburg many times over the years, here are my suggestions:
The heart of Colonial Williamsburg is the Historic Area. This is where you’ll meet people from the past like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. It’s where you’ll explore stately buildings like the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace, private homes like George Wythe‘s and Peyton Randolph‘s, and the important shops of tradesmen like the printer and the gunsmith.
And it’s where you’ll find the taverns. I always recommend that visitors to Colonial Williamsburg enjoy at least one tavern meal.
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King’s Arms Tavern
For lunch, your best bet is the King’s Arms Tavern, one of my go-to spots in Williamsburg. The colonial chop house opened in 1772. Its menu features hearty fare like Brunswick Stew, Chicken Hash, and Onion Pye. Servers wear period dress; the furniture is Queen Anne and Chippendale, and pewter candlesticks and salt cellars top the tables.
The King’s Arms Tavern is on Duke of Gloucester Street, near the Capitol. The closest shuttle stop is the Tavern Bus Stop.
If you prefer a lighter, modern meal, the outdoor Chowning’s Tavern Garden Grill serves American standards like burgers and hot dogs. It is open during 11:00-3:30 on Thursday-Saturday.
The outdoor Chowning’s Tavern Cider Stand offers light bites like sandwiches and soft drinks to go.
Chowning’s Tavern is on Duke of Gloucester Street, toward Merchants Square. The closest shuttle stop is the Market House Bus Stop.
Note: As of this writing, the Chowning’s Tavern main indoor dining room is closed.
The Raleigh Tavern Bakery serves light bites like sandwiches and soft drinks to go. But it’s best known for its popular ginger cakes; when I was a freelance writer, I’d give them to clients for Christmas, and they were always well received.
Raleigh Tavern is across Duke of Gloucester Street from the King’s Arms Tavern. The closest shuttle stop is the Tavern Bus Stop.
Note: Raleigh Tavern proper is not a restaurant; it is a museum where you may take an interesting guided tour.
The Williamsburg Lodge is a comfortable Marriott “Autograph Collection” hotel a short walk from the Historic Area. I stay there often for short trips solo or with family. The closest shuttle stop is the Williamsburg Lodge Bus Stop.
Traditions is the main restaurant in the Williamsburg Lodge. It’s a comfortable, bare-bones spot serving American standards like tuna melts and club sandwiches and Southern spins like Smoked Hominy Stew and Sweet-Potato Dip for lunch.
Colonial Williamsburg has two golf courses and a club house that’s open at lunchtime.
The Gold Course Clubhouse Grill offers a “smoke” menu featuring standards like pulled pork, chicken wings, and Texas-style brisket. The Green Clubhouse and the Gold Bar serve light bites like sandwiches to go.
The Golden Horseshoe Golf Club is behind the Williamsburg Lodge. The closest shuttle stop is the Williamsburg Lodge Bus Stop.
The Museum Café offers lunch standards like sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.
The Art Museums are located at Francis and Nassau Streets, across the Colonial National Historical Parkway from the Williamsburg Lodge. The closest shuttle stop is the Museums Bus Stop.
Merchants Square is a retail district with modern boutiques and chain shops like Talbots. It has several restaurants open for lunch:
Berret’s Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill offers popular standards like crab cakes and clam chowder. It’s one of my go-to spots for modern fare in Williamsburg.
Blue Talon Bistro serves a broad menu ranging from burgers to duck à l’orange. It’s another spot I enjoy.
The Cheese Shop features — you guessed it! — cheeses. It also offers light bites like sandwiches. It’s almost always crowded.
DoG Street Pub offers American interpretations of an eclectic range of foreign foods from Bangers and Mash to Chicken Tikka Masala.
illy Caffé serves sandwiches and flatbreads.
La Piazza offers northern Italian cuisine.
Mellow Mushroom features pizza.
Precarious Beer Hall offers tacos and burgers.
Saladworks features — you guessed it — salads.
Merchants Square is steps away from the Historic Area, just across Henry Street, near the Palace Green. The closest shuttle stop is the Merchants Square Bus Stop.
bonus: Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que
Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que is a 10- to 15-minute drive from Colonial Williamsburg, near Great Wolf Lodge. The fast-casual restaurant is the best barbecue spot in Virginia. I highly recommend stopping here for lunch on your drive home. The pulled pork is my favorite — tender and succulent.
There are several other taverns in the Historic Area, but they are not listed above because they do not serve lunch.
Christiana Campbell’s Tavern serves dinner on Tuesday-Saturday. According to legend, it was George Washington’s favorite seafood spot in Williamsburg.
Shields Tavern used to be a wonderful coffeehouse-style place, where tired travellers could stop in to relax over light bites. Now it’s a private-function venue.
Brick House Tavern and Market Square Tavern are lodging establishments, not restaurants. If you reserve a Tavern Room, you may stay in one of these places. I once stayed in a Tavern Room in another building, the Chiswell-Bucktrout House. It was fabulous — 18th-century decor, a modern bathroom, and a window overlooking a sheep pen. I recommend trying a Tavern Room at least once. (Note: There is also a Brickhouse Tavern restaurant in the modern city of Williamsburg; it appears to be some sort of downscale pub.)
Wetherburn’s Tavern is a museum, but it is currently closed.
Charlton’s Coffeehouse is a museum with guided tours. At the end of the tour, guests receive complimentary samples of hot coffee, tea, or chocolate.
Dubois Grocer offers snacks like popcorn and ice cream and soft drinks to go.
The most elegant spot in Colonial Williamsburg is the neoclassical Williamsburg Inn, which opened in 1937. I’ve stayed there more than once, as did the late Queen Elizabeth II. The Inn has several dining venues, but they are not open for lunch as of this writing:
The Rockefeller Room serves dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Terrace & Goodwin Rooms offer breakfast and dinner.
The outdoor Social Terrace serves light dinner.
The Restoration Bar serves full dinner.
The Inn offers Afternoon Tea seasonally.
Please double-check all opening days and times before making plans. The information in this post was verified via the Colonial Williamsburg Web site just before posting, but CW changes things much more often than you might expect.
If you’d like to make colonial-inspired food at home, check out The Williamsburg Cookbook.