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An Eatery Reborn from the Ashes

The City Tavern is much like a phoenix. Having been reborn from the ashes after suffering from a raging fire in 1834, today the Tavern serves as a historic remembrance of the many celebrations and events that occurred within.


In 1834 the Tavern suffered from a fire that demolished most of the building and made the once momentous inn and restaurant uninhabitable. Luckily, there were records that enabled the rebuilding of the Tavern to look exactly as it had before the raging fire. Today, City Tavern still appears to be "One-hundred percent 18th century authentic" says Yun. She also says that it is "our mission to preserve American heritage."


Located at the intersection of 2nd and Walnut, the City Tavern is amongst the most prestigious time capsules within our city. Customers feel the time change as they walk over the threshold into a world where the old scripts of Martha Washington's recipes are still used, the timelessness of the old colonial decor is still intact, and the walls still stand as witnesses to the first continental congress and the first Fourth of July celebration.


City Tavern opened its doors in 1773 when Philadelphia Governor Johnathan Penn signed a contract to begin the foundation of the soon-to-be well known hot spot among Philadelphia's elites. According to the City Tavern website, the city's leaders believed that a magnificent structure was needed to show Philadelphia was "the most cosmopolitan city in British North America." The City Tavern would fulfill that role.


Through the golden years of the Tavern, it served as a home for many important and widely known events: the first Continental Congress, the first celebration of the Fourth of July, and many of George Washington's presidential meetings.


Molly Yun, director of public relations for the City Tavern, says it "played an integral role in the birth of our nation." And it was described centuries ago by America's second president, John Adams, as being the "most genteel tavern in America."


The Tavern preserves its heritage by continuing to make some of the original and sacred recipes served during the times of the first Continental Congress. These recipes include Martha Washington's Turkey Pot Pie and her famous Chocolate Cake. However, today these recipes are not cooked by Martha Washington herself, rather by Emmy-award winning TV host and chef Walter Staib.


Although the crew at the Tavern work hard to establish this 18th century authenticity, they have changed a few nuts and bolts to better fit our time. Yun says "we adjust to the American palate." City Tavern now serves cold beer verses warm beer and soda, which didn't exist in the 18th century. Once a heavy winter time treat, the Tavern now features Washington's famous Chocolate Cake year round. With modern technology, it is possible to serve fruits and salads year round verses being limited to only serving them in the spring and summer months. Yun jokes that they "were fudging those things a little bit."


The City Tavern housed the first Fourth of July celebration in 1777. Today people still patronize the City Tavern by paying it a visit on the Fourth of July. This past Fourth of July weekend was "our most busiest time of the year" says Yun. The Tavern celebrates this memorable holiday by having a barbeque in their garden and hosting actors portraying people such as Betsy Ross to inform about the making of the American Flag. Yun says there were "lots of hazas!" the traditional toast of the 18th century.