Colonial Food in Virginia Part 2… Dinner at Gadsby’s Tavern

Our second colonial meal was at Gadsby’s Tavern. Gadsby’s Tavern is located in Alexandria, and has been serving food since 1770 where it functioned both as a restaurant and inn, and saw customers such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison & James Monroe and Marquis de Lafayette. George Washington twice celebrated a ball held in his honor here.  Here’s a look at the tavern in daylight when we passed by it again the next day.

But our first look was at night. As we stepped in on Halloween night after slipping past costumed masqueraders on the cobblestone streets, we felt like we really did step back in time. Outside our window, only the occasional car headlights checked us on the time period- even the night revelers seemed to fit in since several ghost tours walked by with the tour guide waving a lantern in their hand. Inside, the staff was dressed in traditional colonial clothing, and a man dressed as Benjamin Franklin walked on his cane to visit and chat at various tables.

One question I was fascinated by was the painting above. Exactly what kind of dinner party was being portrayed in that painting over the mantle: what kind of colonial party involves people falling off their chairs while sharing a giant bowl of soup??

Unfortunately, the atmosphere was the best part of dinner. My appetizer of baked brie en croute in puff pastry stuffed with cardamom spiced apples and finished with raspberry coulis and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar was nothing special. The bread was not necessary at all (and toasted too a point of being too hard) and the cheese barely warm and melted. His salad was spinach in truffled honey and cider vinaigrette with dried cranberries, toasted almonds, and shaved gruyere- it needed more dressing. His grilled vegetable napoleon with flame-roasted seasonal vegetables layered with imported brie and topped with a roasted red pepper puree and served with risotto was average except that the spinach in his napoleon was a little gritty from not being washed well enough!

I went with triple small dishes- a cup of surrey co peanut soup (chicken stock simmered with roasted peanuts, garlic, and ginger) , an appetizer of hot smithfield ham biscuits with mascarpone cheese and raspberry puree dip, and a side of corn pudding because honestly I was suspicious of entree size quality. The soup was not as good as what I had at Mt Vernon (which had the additional richness of chestnut), the biscuits were a little dry and the mascarpone not rich- but at least the corn pudding was moist. We finished with a very dense but not interestingly spiced rum and apple bread pudding with coffees that apparently don’t get refilled.

I couldn’t help but leave with a smile anyway after seeing this on the way to the bathroom at the end though. Later though, I was a teeny spooked how in between the two pictures, it looks like GW sent me a ghostly smile (as much as he can manage with his bad teeth and usual stoic look anyway)?? Can you see the difference in the two pictures?



  1. Background regarding the painting above the fireplace in Gadsbys:
    A Midnight Modern Conversation By William Hogarth
    “Think not to find one meant Resemblence there
    We lash the Vices but the person spare
    Prints should be prized as Authers should be read
    We sharply smile prevailing Folly dead
    So Rabilaes Laught & so Cervantes thought
    So Nature dictated what Art has Taught.”
    This original engraving was both designed and engraved by William Hogarth and published by William Heath in 1822.
    Paulson Catalogue # 128 Third State of Three.


  1. […] the upcoming Presidents’ Day holiday. Unlike the version I tried at Mt. VernonĀ or later at Gadsby Tavern (which is where the painting below is photographed from), this peanut soup version does not use […]

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