Josiah Chownings Tavern
Don and I had a quick getaway to Virginia in July. We spent some time in the Revolutionary City of Williamsburg, trying to absorb a little Colonial History.
We stopped to enjoy lunch at an authentic 18th century alehouse and ended up with some good people encounters!
Some Background First
This actual building was reconstructed 75 years ago, where the old Colonial Hotel once stood. The hotel was built in 1895 on the foundations of 2 buildings from the mid 1700's!
Who Was Mr. Chowning?
An old newspaper advertisement shows that a man named Josiah Chowning did own a Williamsburg tavern in 1765.
I don't believe this is where his tavern was, but the 1940's reconstruction attempted to bring back the authentic flavor. They even added a beer garden in back, with "arbors and booths of greenery". The tavern became popular with visiting servicemen during WWII.
Waiting for a Table
A costumed hostess met us on the porch and added our names to the a wait list. Maybe she was just "in character", but she seemed sort of bossy when she asked, "Would you mind eating with another couple?"
That seemed odd, but she wasn't someone we wanted to say no to. And we were hungry. We passed through the dining room to wait in the beer garden. I hoped we would be matched up with someone more friendly than our hostess.
We headed towards the rear door and I peeked at the corner fireplace and antique chairs and benches. Nice. I also took a look at some of the tourists and hoped we hadn't set ourselves up for some very dull dining conversation.
The hostess grabbed us from the bar, before I had a chance to ask for the complimentary peanuts.
She hustled us through the lower rooms like an impatient schoolmarm and pointed us towards another couple, heading towards the stairs. Our dining partners! Don and I eyed each other and grinned. Not only did we luck out, getting to eat in the quaint upstairs attic room, but the other dining couple looked pretty delightful!
Our New Friends
Our server, Tansu was in much better spirits than the schoolmarm hostess.
Being from Turkey, I didn't expect her to care a hoot about the 1950's, Ford Motor Cookbook, which I pulled out of my bag. But she laughed and took in the retro book, like she actually understood the fun. Our new friends Bob and Joan seemed equally tickled as they flipped through pages.
Don and I always feel pretty lucky when we find a place that still exists in our old travel cookbooks.
Usually the featured recipe has disappeared from the menu. But the Chowning's menu still featured Brunswick Stew! I don't know if it had been altered, but I made sure to order it!
While waiting on our orders, we shared some travel stories with Bob and Joan. Bob had some good cell phone pics to accent his funny stories. They seemed a lot younger than the ages they claimed. And they certainly had no problems hiking up the rickety stairway to the attic dining room.
However, Bob admitted that just the day before, they claimed they "needed an elevator" during their visit in D.C. Their daughter was able to set up a special tour at the "White House", which included a bit of stair climbing. But somehow the 2 had determined, the route would be different if they needed an elevator. They ended up with a sneak peek into the White House kitchen and some extra chat time with the Secret Service! Our dining buddies were gave us some tips for the future!
Food and Drink
The beers came in festive clay mugs. Bob and Don teased over who had the most beer in theirs.
I was actually pretty crazy over the heavy dishes with yellow and blue peacocks! It was quite an incentive for any child to clean their plate.
Don and I did a little sharing for lunch. Our order came with Brunswick Stew (made with young fowl and fresh garden vegetables) and two Pasties, plus slaw. The meat and veggie "pasty" pies were flavorful and seemed like an authentic choice for an alehouse. The stew was thick and tasty, as well.
I took off on a wandering mission and only got in trouble once. Evidently one staircase is for employees only. A different schoolmarm got on my case, this time. But I did see some wonderful antique youth chairs and some curious sconces and pewter items.
Colonial Williamsburg is full of costumed characters and I found a few at the bottom of the stairs. Two were seated, playing a table game. A man in a 3-cornered hat, was warming up on the mandolin and a cheery woman in cap and apron was just passing through.
On the Porch
By the time we 4 had finished our meal, the porch had been relieved of the hosting schoolmarm. Joan and I enjoyed a little music and threatened to dance a bit. We posed for a picture instead.
All in all, the place was memorable. The grumpy hostess gave us something to laugh about with our new friends. Food was decent and our sweet server Tansu was the best. Next time, we'll have to arrive at night, when I hear the games and music can become very lively!
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.