Food History: King's Arms Tavern, Williamsburg (1772)


Dear Readers,

We had the opportunity to dine with friends today at one of the finest of Colonial Williamsburg's taverns, the King's Arms, founded in 1772 by Mrs. Jane Vobe.  On February 6th of that year, Mrs. Vobe ran the following advertisement in the Williamsburg Gazette:

I have just opened TAVERN opposite to the Raleigh (Tavern) at the sign of the KING’S ARMS...and shall be much obliged to the Gentlemen who favor me with their company.

Her tavern was incredibly popular, attracting the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Today, the King's Arms has been restored to its original glory, and features 18th century menu items such as A Made Dish of Beef and Mrs. Vobe's Southern Fried Chicken.  Since the inside of the tavern is done in dark wood panelling, the light coming through the wavy glass windows needs to be enhanced by candles burning brightly at every table.  The waiters all dress in period clothing, and are friendly and great with kids--a fun and entertaining part of the dining experience.  During our lunch, a musician wandered through the various dining rooms of the King's Arms, playing tunes on a fiddle (with a lively "Pop Goes the Weasel" especially for the kids).  

Step back in time with these photos from the King's Arms!

(Please click on any photo to enlarge and scroll through)

From the top: the front of the King's Arms, from historic Duke of Gloucester Street; stairs in the entryway going to dining rooms on the second floor; imposing fireplace in the parlor and coat of arms (the king's, of course) bearing a lion and a unicorn, along with the dual mottos "God and my right" and "Shame on he who thinks evil;" china cabinet in the front parlor; lunch menu; salt cellar, pepper, and sugar bowl ("the salt's white, the sugar's brown," cautioned our friendly waiter); a lunch of Norfolk Pottage Pie; photos of the dining rooms on the second floor of the King's Arms; a curious framed print on the wall of the dining room, a reprint of a 1772 caricature entitled "The Hopes of the Family: an Admission at the University"; a view from the second floor looking over the courtyard and gardens behind the tavern; and a surprise appearance by the talented Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums on Duke of Gloucester Street.

For further reading about Colonial Williamsburg, please see my write-ups of the Governor's Palace and the Colonial Garden & Nursery.

Yours Truly,