We spent the day at King's Dominion and wanted to find a casual place for dinner on our way back home to Northern Virginia. The Colonial Tavern had the best reviews of any casual restaurant in the Fredericksburg area, so we decided to stop there. The restaurant is located in what appears to be a convereted railroad station. It is an attractive, if not terribly warm setting with high ceilings and a certain old rustic charm. While clearly more of a bar, the place does have an ample dining room and we were hopful the food, like at so many other Irish pubs we have visited, would be good casual fare. We were more than disappointed and wonder whether the strong reviews were the result of people under the influence of the "excellent beer selection."
We started off with the crab dip, the Buffalo wings and the tempura mozzarella sticks. The menu makes a point that the dip is made with "lump" crabmeat. This is a bold faced lie. Although the dip has decent flavor, it is clearly made with canned stringy crabmeat that is the polar opposite of the advertised "lump." And at $11.00, it was far from a bargain for a small dish of hot cream cheese with a bit of low grade crabmeat. The wings were somewhat better, although the sauce seemed to be straight out of the bottle Frank's hot sauce with nothing added to help it stick to the wings. We asked for some extra sauce on the side which made things better. The mozzarella sticks were stright out of a frozen package and were nothing special for $7.00.
For dinner, we ordered a beef barbeque sandwich, a stout burger, a crab cake sandiwch and corned beef and cabbage dinner. Let me start with the two utter lies on the menu. The crab cake was small and chocked full of bread and the same cheap crabmeat used in the crab dip despite the menu having advertised it as a "lump crabcake." To the extent "lump" would be used to describe this crabcake in any way, one would say it was a "lump of bread mixed with canned Indonesian crabmeat from a can." The housemade potato chips were actually the highlight of the dish. They were OK - a bit greasy but definitely actually cut by hand from real potatoes. The corned beef and cabbage was another complete lie. As the staple of an Irish pub menu and with the menu making it sound housmade, I had high hopes for this dish. Unfortunately, what I got was about 4-5 ounces of corned beef cut from a low grade commercial deli product. This was obvious from the rubbery texture and the gelatin that bound it together. The cabbage and ptatoes had been steamed separately from the corned beef so they had zero flavor. A very far cry from what I pictured when I ordered the dish -- I expected that they had a big pot of brisket and cabbage boiling in the kitchen like a real Irish pub would. If I had wanted low quality supermarket deli meat heated in the microwave, I could have done that at home. The barbeque beef sandwich was OK -- again nothing special, some shredded beef swimming in commercial barbeque sauce on a very average bun. The stout burger was another menu fabrication. It was billed as a half pound burger marinated in Guiness and served on a potato pancake. In reality, it was a very ordinary hamburger, probably dipped quickly in some sort of beer and then served on a small bed of mashed potatoes (I don't recall the Irish ever calling mashed potatoes a potato pancake). At least they cooked the meat approximately the way I ordered it -- medium, When we were finished, our tab came to $82.00 for two adults and three kids with one of the kids actually only having an appetizer as his meal and a beverage tab of only $2.00 for one diet soda. Although not overly expensive, the value for the money was poor.
With live bands and many drink specials (mostly beer) advertised on banners on the wall, I am guessing this place survives more as a local watering hole than as a restaurant. This is really too bad because I have visited many Irish pubs (though not in the DC metro area) that are able to do both quite well. The food is probably OK for someone who needs to punctuate a night of heavy drinking with some greasy pub fare and doesn't care about flavor or quality -- but if you're looking for a good place to eat a casual meal, try somewhere elese -- Applebees or Ruby Tuesday's would have been a far better choice and neither of these is exactly a culinary gem. Save your money.
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