Colonial Williamsburg is a great destination for food-loving families with numerous options for lovers of everything from traditional barbeque to French bistro food. I reviewed a number of Williamsburg restaurants in 2011, but am happy to add a few more to the list after our January 2013 visit.
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We rolled into Williamsburg on Friday evening after a long drive and were so glad to find this restaurant right across the street from the Residence Inn where we were staying. A bust of Ben Franklin greeted us at the entrance, where you can purchase t-shirts with political commentary on them. Look closely at the quotes on the clothing and the fine print on the menu (which grumbles about the warnings it is required by the government to display) and you quickly realize that part of the “food” for “thought” here is libertarian ideology. It is dealt out with a humorous and light hand however.
The resaturant was busy when we arrived and we were told it would be a 45-minute wait so we bellied up to the bar where Tommy immediately ordered a Coke and buried himself in a huge history of baseball that was sitting there as if waiting for him. In keeping with the restaurant’s theme, coffee table books are scattered around the bar, which means you can contemplate sports and architecture while you sip a locally made beer.
Or perhaps you prefer instead to ponder the various words of wisdom that are painted on the walls.
(Another favorite I didn’t photograph was this one from Ann Landers: “One of the secrets of a long fruitful life is to forgive everybody everything every night before you go to bed.”)
The service at Food for Thought was uniformly friendly and excellent. Despite what we were told when we arrived, we only had to wait about fifteen minute for a table. We told our waitress that the boys were hungry (it was well past our normal dinnertime by then) and she took their orders and got them food so quickly that we only got to play a few rounds of the MindTrap game that was placed in the middle of the table while we waited for their food.
Both boys ordered from the large children’s menu; seven-year-old Teddy had ribs and French fries and ten-year-old Tommy enjoyed meatloaf and potatoes, of which he said that “the presentation wasn’t great, but the taste was outstanding.”
My husband Matt and I started with a Shrimp Boat – fried shrimp tossed in remoulade, topped with bruschetta tomatoes and served over potato skins. It was a pretty tasty dish (though I felt like the sauce could have a bit more flavor). I managed to snag one of the last remaining orders of the night’s special fried oysters, which were breaded and cooked perfectly – crispy outside, soft inside.
Matt enjoyed That Nutty Chicken! as it was called on the voluminous menu. This was a pan-roasted cutlet crusted with pistachios and cheese and topped with a creamy garlic mushroom sauce. He was especially happy to also order a side of his favorite creamed spinach.
On Sunday, when we discovered that our preferred destination The Old Chickahominy House closed for an hour between breakfast and lunch and wouldn’t be able to serve us at 11 as we had planned, we headed back to Food for Thought. The service was as before, although I felt that the food wasn’t quite as good (my soup and sandwich combo were both salty and a little bland). This may partly be because I really wanted breakfast. But instead of offering a Sunday brunch, the restaurant stopped serving any breakfast items at 11 and switched over to lunch
Teddy, who happily ate the same ribs for lunch on Sunday as he had on Friday, would probably beg to differ with me and would recommend Food for Thought for any family meal while in Williamsburg.
We didn’t actually eat a meal at this new gastro pub right in Merchants Square, an easy stroll from the houses and museums of Colonial Williamsburg, but I definitely want to mention it as a family-friendly restaurant. It was the perfect place to stop for a cocktail, a beer, or an artisanal soda and likely would have been great for a snack or dinner as well.
The list of available beverages is impressive – numerous craft beers in bottles and drafts and original cocktails with house-made syrups and infused liquor. I tried a Nice Dream, a lovely mix of Saint-Germain and honeysuckle vodka.
Tommy loved reading the soft drink menu, which included descriptions of each beverage. Sprite apparently has a “clear body; fresh, tart on the nose with a sweet, dry mouth feel”. Alongside the more common sodas you’ll find old-fashioned items like Nehi Grape and RC Cola. Tommy tried the Fentimans Curiosity Cola (“a full body soda with a bitter flavor and slight ginger notes”).
I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed he didn’t want a Butterbeer, which according to the menu is mulled cider and caramel topped with melted caramel butter.
There’s a long communal table next to the bar and we discovered lots of friendly people to chat with including numerous families taking a break over what looked to be delicious plates of hummus, Welsh Rarebit, and fish and chips. With gourmet pub food and both small and large plates, it would be easy to find something here to please everyone.
When my family heads south of Delaware, we like to indulge ourselves in at least one meal at a barbeque joint. This Yorktown destination (about a 20-minute drive from Williamsburg) did not disappoint.
The meat at Joe’s is dry rubbed, smoked, and then served with a plethora of sauces – I recommend trying them all. My favorite was Smokey, a thick, tomato-based sauce with just the right amount of bite. Tommy loved the Sweet ‘n Mild.
Combo platters come with a variety of meats, hushpuppies, and a choice of two additional sides. Being the dainty eater that I am, I had a small helping of chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans.
Matt went for a combination of pulled pork and brisket. And Teddy, once again, had ribs. I never did tally how many he ate over the course of the weekend, but let’s just say that pigs should live in fear of my youngest child.
Joe’s also serves pie, and of course we had to sample it. I’ll admit I was a bit dubious when Tommy’s lemon pie was place in front of him – it looked like it might have come from a box – but one taste dispelled my concerns. The meringue was perfect, light and sweet, and the lemon custard was deeply tart, as it should be.
Small and casual, Joe’s is great for a family meal. The boys loved the old-school Miss Pacman game and we all left with our bellies stuffed and our pockets empty of quarters.
To see my reviews of other family dining destinations in and around Colonial Williamsburg, please read Where to eat in Williamsburg with (and without) the kids. On this visit, we returned to both the Blue Talon Bistro and the Cheese Shop on this visit and were happy to discover that they both are still excellent.
When Tommy and I were in Colonial Williamsburg in the Griswold Family Truckster in 2010, we had lunch in one of the onsite taverns and were not overly impressed with the food. But I’ve since heard from various quarters that they are definitely worth dinner visit both for the food and the atmosphere. I’ve therefore added them to the list for our next visit and promise to give a full report.
Want to see more pictures from our 2013 visit to Williamsburg? Check out my Facebook page. And don’t forget that this week I’m giving away a $250 Residence Inn gift certificate, which you can use in Williamsburg or at any of the other Residence Inn properties.
Want more yummy posts? Be sure to check out Wanderfood Wednesday.