From being a Spanish military outpost, to a tavern and inn, and now presently a local drink and food favorite, King’s Tavern has over 228 years of history – including some murders and mysteries.
The Oldest Building in Natchez, Mississippi
Built before 1789, the building that houses King’s Tavern is the oldest in Natchez and the even the Mississippi territory. This remarkable 3 story building is believed to originally be part of a Spanish military outpost during the time the Spanish occupied the Natchez territory.
In the early 1800s, Richard King of Long Island became the first owner, and the building became known as King’s Tavern.
It was a gathering place, a tavern and inn, for those that traveled downstream to sell goods as well as those who were soon to make the long trek home, traveling north on the Natchez Trace. For northward traveler’s, Natchez was their starting point, camping out for days in order to gather a band of men to make the trip together, so they were at less risk of being the target of thieves. (It was known that if you were traveling north, you had money from doing business on the river). Sometimes they never left because they squandered their money away while waiting by gambling and drinking.
Richard King sold the building in 1837, and it became the private home of the Postalwaith family for 5 generations, or 150 years.
In the 1970s, the house was sold again, and eventually the building was bought by Doug and Regina Charboneau upon their returning to live in Natchez in 2001. Regina, a well-traveled chef and successful restaurateur in San Francisco, made hand crafted creations the star at King’s Tavern as the tavern and restaurant it is today.
Driving through Natchez, Mississippi today certainly makes an impression with its grandiose river views, antebellum homes, historic buildings, and a story to go with everything. King’s Tavern is one of those unforgettable places.
If Walls Could Talk
King’s Tavern is also known as being haunted.
During a renovation in the 1930s, a Spanish colonial dagger was found along with 3 skeletons inside the wall of the chimney. One of the skeletons belonged to a woman, the other two skeletons belonging to men. The woman’s skeleton is believed to be Richard King’s mistress, Madeline, murdered by King’s wife. Many accounts of seeing a female ghost have been recorded over the years. The skeletons of the men remain a mystery; however, it is known that King’s wife was a ruthless woman to work for in her time.
The King’s Tavern Experience
Rustic beams, lumber from old ships, brick walls and candle lit lanterns set the mood for a cozy dining experience. As you step through the heavy wooden doors at the tavern, you step back two and a half centuries in time into a lantern lit tavern. You walk across the brick floors smoothed over by the many years of shuffling feet and up to the wood framed bar where you are warmly greeted by Ricky, the bar manager.
Ricky is somewhat of a legend around here – greeter, mixologist and resident ghost story teller. He proudly makes everything from scratch at his bar: the syrups, the mixers, even the tonic. Try HIS gin and tonic with blue iris flavored Magellan gin and house made tonic. Also, on the drink menu are a plethora of fresh and inspiring cocktail options, some including Charboneau Rum, the owners’ own award-winning spirit creation.
Ricky tells of the alleged ghost of the previous owner’s mistress and gives a bit of history on this infamous building – that is, if he has time. He is a very popular guy around here!
On the second floor is the gift shop and craft liquor store, selling a variety of Mississippi and Natchez made products and craft liquor options hand selected by the Charboneaus. Great finds here!
You can also visit the third floor, which pays tribute to the building’s history.
The food is rustic and earthy like the surroundings. You pull up your bench or chair to the farm table and get lost in the craft paper menus filled with inspiring flavors.
We ordered the Oysters in Peppered Marinade to start, a recipe Chef Regina has showcased in many of her cooking demonstrations over the years. These marinated oysters are infused with a garlic, peppery flavor and a natural char that comes from being cooked in a cast iron skillet. In good Southern style, they are served in the skillet with a side of warmed flatbread strips to soak up all the yummy broth from the marinade and reduction.
The most popular item are their wood fired oven flatbreads with house made sauces, local produce, and high quality ingredients. At their recommendation, I chose the Brisket Flatbread. To be exactly, I actually bought the 6,514th Brisket Flatbread. (They update this number on a menu board daily) The peppered brisket was tender with a perfect smoke ring and outer char on top of a seasoned olive oil flatbread. Caramelized onions, arugula, and a drizzle of horseradish cream made this a powerful flavor combination – and yes, all on a perfect flatbread crust.
We also had to try the Crawfish Pot Pie once Chef Regina (aka “The Biscuit Queen”) explained her crust as basically a bacon thyme biscuit dough – holy moly. Imagine a savory infused biscuit wrapping up a perfect blend of crawfish tails, cream sauce, and spices, cooked in a well-seasoned skillet. It was Southern goodness wrapped up in a pot pie.
My husband ordered the Flat Iron Steak with bacon demi glaze. This tender, perfectly cooked (medium rare) steak, also served in a small well-seasoned skillet, was that of well-aged filet quality. Served with a side of house cut fried potatoes, it was a perfect fit for the setting. A rustic, tasteful pairing that pays homage to its roots.
Visit King’s Tavern – an authentic Mississippi Dining Experience
King’s Tavern is one of the most authentic dinner experiences I’ve had in Mississippi. The story, the surroundings, the ingredient choices and the cooking methods are all in perfect harmony here. It is a true Mississippi experience, certainly not just a meal.
You can experience King’s Tavern for yourself at 613 Jefferson Street in Natchez, Mississippi. They are open Thursday – Sunday. On Thursday and Friday, visit from 5 p.m. until the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, they’re open from 12 p.m. until 10 p.m.
>> For a full Natchez experience, visit Chef Regina in her home, Twin Oaks. Reserve a room in one of their well-appointed guest suites. You might even be lucky enough to catch one her infamous biscuit demonstrations, which has won the attention of the New York Times and is a beloved excursion stop for travelers on the American Queen River Boat!