Have you ever dined at a restaurant and long after the memory of the food had dissipated, the magical memories associated with being in an interesting, perhaps historic, place still lingered? That’s exactly what happened after I stopped by King’s Tavern in Natchez several years ago. It’s Natchez oldest building and definitely worthy of a visit if you’re in the southwest part of the state.
Here’s the thing, though – I rarely forget enjoyable meals, and King’s Tavern definitely provided one. However, I vividly remember driving up to the rustic, hundreds-year-old building. I can clearly see the brick and wood beam floors, low ceilings hung with wooden beams, and dark corners filled with interesting artifacts as I dined at a wooden table. As I glanced around the room, I remember trying to picture the thousands of guests dating back over the past 200 years that had dined in the exact same spot. Maybe even a pirate or two, according to my waiter. I clearly remember the stories he shared about former inhabitants – including the remains of a few found in the nearby fireplace - while I waited for my food.
But I can’t recall much about the taste of my steak dinner. So, I obviously enjoyed my meal, but the overall experience was so interesting that it blocked out vivid memories of the food. Here’s a recap of the story shared by my waiter.
Picture it: It’s the 1770s, and the Mississippi River was the main way for river boats and ships to transport goods from state to state, including to the thriving port of Natchez. Many of the riverboat captains docked at Natchez’ shores before heading up the Natchez Trace in search a place to stretch their legs, relax, and enjoy a hot meal. Built from wood taken from some of the boats that had once sailed up and down the Mississippi, King’s Tavern was opened in 1789 by Richard King. Serving as an inn, bar, post office, and King’s home, King’s Tavern was a popular spot until 1817 when the Kings sold the business due to dwindling riverboats docking in Natchez and a couple of other “ghostly” reasons that you may (or may not) want to research via online sources.
After serving as a private home for over 150 years, King’s Tavern was reopened as a restaurant and bar in the 1950s. It has remained a popular spot for locals, tourists from around the world, and more than a few ghost-hunters.
Now owned by Chef Regina Charboneau, King’s Tavern is renowned for its food as much as its historical background. The restaurant’s specialties include wood fired flatbread, pot-pies topped with a biscuit crust and craft cocktails courtesy of an in-house distillery.
The menu has changed a little since my visit, but in a good way. For starters, you're invited to try hummus ($8) topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms, meatballs ($9) with dipping sauce, bacon-wrapped artichoke hearts ($9), wood-fired peppered oysters ($12), and a charcuterie ($13) filled with prosciutto, salami, marinated mozzarella, olives, and flatbread, among others.
My plan is to return and try one of the wood-fired tavern flatbreads, including bacon and egg ($15), braised brisket ($17), meatball ($17), muffaletta ($17), and shrimp and prosciutto and mushrooms ($17), to name a few of the delicious-sounding selections.
Or, I may be tempted to tried a wood-fired pot pie. Chef Regina tops each pie with a bacon-thyme biscuit crust that more than lives up to Natchez’ claim to fame as the “biscuit capital of the world.” Filled with either savory chicken ($17) or crawfish ($18), I’m sure these pot pies would have been the meal of choice for many a weary riverboat captains.
Since I previously dined on steak, I may have to repeat my meal in order to gain a fresh memory. King’s Tavern’s wood-fired flat iron steak with smoked bacon demi-glaze ($20), served in a cast iron skillet along with smashed potatoes and roasted carrots, sounds like a meal I won’t readily forget.
There’s also a fish of the day ($20) topped with pepper marinade and served with vegetables. Shrimp and grits ($15) is served on weekends.
For dessert, ($8 each) bananas Foster bread pudding sounds like a perfect choice, as do dark chocolate house-made ice cream and black bottom pie.
King’s Tavern is located at 613 Jefferson just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 12 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 12 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.