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Chowning's Experience is Tasty

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 1990.

Eating under the grape arbor at Chowning's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg during late summer is an extraordinarily enjoyable dining experience. A recent visit there afforded my family and me a savory, relaxing meal accented with jaunty Scottish tunes by John Turner, strolling mandolinist and lyricist.

Sharing the lovely, densely-shaded outdoor setting with us were lots of birds and squirrels, but only a few fellow diners (the crowds one expects to see in Colonial Williamsburg seem noticeably lighter this summer).

A small house salad kicked off our dinner. The chutney-kissed salad dressing was a sweet surprise. Daughter Sarah ordered barbecued ribs and I selected barbecued chicken. Both entrees were yummily messy. The barbecue sauce is worth selling nationwide. Sauteed squash livened up the plates, and baked potatoes added a bit of stomach-filler. Husband Henry opted for the Duckling in Orange Sauce served with wild rice. The roast duck was moist and flavorful. Son David made a superlative dinner choice: his Brunswick Stew was worth fighting for! (We didn't, though. We just sampled a bit!)

Immense, crusty rolls accompanied the meal, and for us rich smooth Colonial Williamsburg ice cream provided a grand climax. Other dessert choices include Queen's Cake, Apple Pie, or a Pecan Tart.

Chowning's (pronounced “CHOON-ings”), billed as a “typical colonial alehouse,” is open for lunch, at which time lighter entrees are available. The dinner hours begin at 5 p.m. Other evening entree choices include Prime Rib, Prime Rib and Virginia Ham Plate, and a Chesapeake Dinner. Standard wines and beers are available, as well as such specialities as Liebotschaner Cream ale, Samuel Adams dark beer, and various colonial “refreshments” — Bumbo, Sangaree, Toddy, etc. A dinner at Chowning's costs approximately $15.

Located on Duke of Gloucester Street near the courthouse, Chowning's is one of four eating establishments clustered in the heart of Virginia's reconstructed colonial capital. They are operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for the purpose of re-creating the atmosphere of the mid-1700s taverns. The three sister establishments are Christina Campbell's (one of George Washington's favorites), the King's Arms (with a genteel atmosphere), and Shields (which attracts customers from both the middle-class and gentry).

Evening reservations are mandatory. Call Colonial Williamsburg's reservation center at 1-800-HISTORY.