TIPSY TOURIST: Gambols at Chowning’s Tavern

A warning or an enticement — depending on your tastes or allergies — at Chowning's Tavern.

A warning or an enticement — depending on your tastes or allergies — at Chowning’s Tavern.

“The longer we sit here and drink
The merrier we shall be!”

Once the strolling balladeer crooned those lovely words, I knew I was in the right place.

Candlelight adds to the historical fun at Chowning's.

Candlelight adds to the historical fun at Chowning’s.

A visit to Williamsburg always seems like time travel to me. I may be walking around in 21st century clothing clutching my smart phone and digital camera, but the place always feels like I stepped back in time.

And nowhere is this more evident than at Gambols at Chowning’s Tavern. Guests crowd together at communal tables for some light fare, a beer or cocktail, and some fun. Chowning’s recreates the tavern spirit of colonial days with candlelight, scarred tables nd mismatched chairs, barmaids in mob caps. It’s loud and companionable — just the place to catch up on the news of the day.

Shut the Box is pretty simple play but hard to win.

Shut the Box is pretty simple play but hard to win.

We got to know a young couple who live only a few miles from our house. They were celebrating their wedding anniversary — and missing their young child. We wished them well, learned some new songs and played an addicting game called Shut the Box. The rules are simple but the game is hard to win. It’s a game of chance and I have never figured out how to make those little cubes do my bidding.

A beer, peanuts and song: gambols at Chowning's Tavern.

A beer, peanuts and song: gambols at Chowning’s Tavern.

The waitress, on the other hand, was quick to arrive with drinks and offers to bring us plenty of good eats from the Light Fare menu. You can get a sandwich, a crock of cheese, or maybe an 18th century favorite such as Welsh rarebit or Brunswick stew (Get the stew; it’s a longtime favorite of mine. Did I mention I’ve been going IMG_2446here for well, a long time). Or just stick with the big basket of peanuts at your table and a beverage. Rum-laced drinks are big here, as they were back in colonial times, and there are local beers on draft, including Old Stitch and Tavern Ale, and few other craft beers. Local ale and cider come in a bottle, too.

A couple of musicians add to the fun, strumming on their guitars and mandolins and crooning a tune or two. Kids are welcome to join in. It may get a little raucous but it’s never out of control. Colonial Williamsburg remains a civilized place, no matter how merry we shall be.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

The newly-recreated public armoury in Williamsburg was featured in recent post:
Something new/old in Colonial Williamsburg

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