Bringing a bit of Williamsburg home for Christmas and dining Colonial style: The King’s Arms Tavern

I haven’t been to Colonial Williamsburg in years.  The last time I went was 10 years ago with my friend, Bob.  We found a wonderful restaurant that we have talked about over the years and he considers one of his favorite dining experiences.  When I planned this trip with my friend Camille and her kids, I immediately made a reservations and couldn’t wait to share this restaurant with them.

King’s Arm Tavern

The King’s Arm Tavern is in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The restaurant defines itself as a “refined chophouse experience” and has a long history.  “Originally opened by Jane Vobe in 1772, this authentic reproduction public house serves up a transporting experience for the senses in Colonial Williamsburg. Everything is true to the time period at King’s Arms Tavern, from the fashion sported by servers to the pewter candlesticks—all adding to an air of colonial elegance. Inspired by 18th-century recipes, but with updates to suit 21st-century tastes, tuck into a chophouse menu featuring prime rib, pork chops, and more.” It’s historical dining at its finest.

We received a text letting us know that our table was ready early.  We arrived and were immediately seated in a little alcove with a window.  Our server arrived and our meal started to fall apart.  We ordered a wine punch bowl for the adults and some fruit drinks for the kids.  We received the wrong adult punch and were dismissed with a “Oh, I wrote it down wrong” with no offer to bring the right punch or to take it off the bill.

Since we had a punch bowl on our table, we asked if we could remove the glass hurricane cover to the candle and the waitress became mad.  She lectured us on the cost of the glass and how we can’t break it because of the cost.  After she left, I quietly took the glass off and placed it on the floor.  I returned the glass after the meal, unscathed.  We felt like children being scolded for something we didn’t do. Mind you we were dressed well and weren’t acting inappropriately.

Our appetizers arrived without incident, although it took a half hour to receive them. We asked for some bread only to be told “I’ll bring it, I can’t carry everything.”   I started watching the timeliness of our meal as compared to the table of 2 and table of 6 that sat down as the same time as we did.  They received their foods quicker and enjoyed history lessons that we did not.  We received very little information or attention.

Our King’s Arm Menu

Sangaree Punch

Seasonal Punch (nonalcoholic)

Ramequin’s Vol-Au-Vent

Romaine Hearts Salat

Peanut Soupe

Madeira Braised Shank of Lamb

Chop of Shoat

Hunter’s Game Pye

I usually look up reviews before I go to a restaurant, however, not ones that I have been to several times.  This was the case with this restaurant and I wish I had, although my past experience might have caused me to negate what I read.

The food and atmosphere were very good but the service was atrocious.  Our server lagged in providing prompt service, did not provide historical context for the food, disappeared for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, served items out of order and the wrong items, and at times was rude.  Yes, we had an 8 and 10 years old with us.  They were well behaved, knew which utensils to use, did not cause a commotion, and one actually ate lamb and enjoyed it.  These two are well versed on how to act in public and were so in awe of the experience and were busy taking it in which conversing with us about the history of the place, which I had to look up and supplement.

You may ask if these serving “transgressions” were really terrible.  We watch the other 4 tables around us receive excellent and attentive service.  We overheard the conversations the server had with other people.  One table had a couple, one had a party of 6, and the other two had parties of 4.  I had the time to count and watch as I stewed over not being served.  We even asked when things were coming and we met with some terse comments.  It was so bad that the Bestie left a 5 dollar tip on a pricey tab and I complained to the manager, which I have never done before.  The manager just bobbed his head and apologized.  He watched the kids for misbehavior…there was none and they patiently waited for me to finish the conversation.  We later read some reviews and heard reviews from some locals about the service there. which mirrored our experience.

Having said all that, I am a fan of early American cooking since it depends upon fresh and local.  There are a myriad of choices for dining and there are Holiday festivities that occur. According to the Colonial Williamsburg blog, the festivities began at the start of November.  According to the blog:

          “Colonial Williamsburg Resorts is kicking off the holiday season in November with a  festive array of events and experiences including the Annual Lighting Ceremony at the iconic Williamsburg Inn, a popular golf invitational, Annual Pie and Bake Sale,  Thanksgiving feasts, and the highly-anticipated Annual Gingerbread open house at the Williamsburg.”

Other activities include a New Year’s Eve celebration, a Christmas Market, ice skating, and Holiday decorations tours.  Form more information, check out their blog:

The Holiday Season Returns to Colonial Williamsburg Resorts

 

I did some hunting for a Holiday cookie to bring the taste of Williamsburg home.  I found a wonderful blog from The Seasoned Mom.  She does an excellent job of discussing the taste and texture of the Williamsburg cookies, the reasons for the ingredients, how to make, decorate, and store, and tips to optimize the recipe.

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

Her inspiration for the recipe is the Raleigh Tavern Bakery.  Her childhood memories of this delightful little place spills over into her adulthood.  The bakery is a great stop during any visit to Colonial Williamsburg. The recipe for the cookies are in her blog and I have attached a video from Colonial Williamsburg for a visual. Enjoy these lovely cookies and cherish the memories!

 

 

REFERENCES

The Holiday Season Returns to Colonial Williamsburg Resorts

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

Abandoned Williamsburg Pottery

I remember going to the Williamsburg Pottery years ago when it was behind the new Pottery strip mall area.  There were old buildings and a greenhouse with so many wonderful plants, garden accessories and random stuff.  It was a fun way to spend some time and find unique items.  I was particularly enamored by the greenhouse and garden section.  I am an avid gardener and am always looking for unique plants and accessories.

In 2012, the old Pottery was abandoned in favor of a new strip mall that houses the same goods.  I drove past it the first time since the parking lot was empty.  I parked and looked up the Pottery and found the changes.  I was interested but concerned since half of the parking lot was blocked off and there were no other cars there.  There are two sections divided by a fountain and there is a view of the old grounds behind the fountain.  The old buildings are still in the back and it abandonment reflects the traffic of the new strip mall.  It was disappointing to see the changes and decline.

I spent about an hour going through what was left of the Pottery.  There were various household items, wine, some plants, outdoor accessories and food items.  Approximately 50% of the new buildings are occupied and it is not stocked like the old Pottery whose shelves were overburdened by product and finds.  The new mall has a small percentage of the old Pottery’s stock and lack the abundance of curiosities that were once there.  I bought a delightful little bunny planter for the front porch, but frankly there was little else.   There were only a few other people there and little prospect of more and I don’t see longevity in this venture.  This is one place to skip In Williamsburg.

 

Williamsburg Pottery Entrance and an empty lot

 

A shot towards the empty 1/2 of the mall

 

A few outdoor items

 

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A peak into an empty store

 

Wine area with empty shelves

 

Partially stocked

 

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