Eat clam chowder in George Washington’s old hangout


The 1780 restaurant is one of the most historic taverns in America.

Warren Tavern
Warren Tavern in Charlestown. Warren Tavern

At Warren Tavern in Charlestown, diners eat clam chowder where George Washington and Paul Revere once held court.

  • This Boston wedding almost didn’t happen. And then a hotel staff dropped everything.

The 1780 restaurant was named after Dr. Joseph Warren, who gave his life for the patriot cause when he was killed in the fist major battle of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775.

Kimberly Mahoney, a Charlestown native and manager of Warren Tavern for the past 25 years, shares Warren’s story with patrons.

Warren, a Roxbury native, sent Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride to Lexington on April 18, 1775 to warn of approaching British soldiers, said Tom Coots, past president of the Charlestown Historical Society, captain of the local militia company, and treasurer of the Bunker Hill Monument Association.

Warren, a respected Boston doctor, political leader, and member of the Sons of Liberty, was appointed a general just days before the Battle of Bunker Hill but refused to take command and instead fought as an ordinary soldier. The 34-year-old died in the battle, leaving four small children behind.

The American patriots were defeated at the Battle of Bunker Hill, but won a moral victory against the British army and Warren was regarded as a hero.

“There’s a saying here in Charlestown that there would be no July 4th without June 17th,” Coots said. “There’s a definite responsibility to get people to understand why Charlestown is so important, and the Warren Tavern is the heart of Charlestown.”

“He was such an interesting man,” said Mahoney, a member of the Bunker Hill Monument Association. “When people ask about the history of the building, I always remind folks of who General Warren was. He was such an important person and a great man. He had a lot of pride and character and he was very brave.”

Modern-day diners enjoy 18th-century Colonial charm inside the tavern, which seats 130 people.

“You really get the feeling of what it was like in 1780 when Paul Revere and George Washington and John Hancock were there,” said Coots. “There are the exposed wooden beams, and the floor is an old wooden floor.”

People stroll around the Bunker Hill Monument.
People stroll around the Bunker Hill Monument. – Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The tavern, one of the first structures built after the British burned Charlestown during the battle, has a fireplace in the main dining room.

“The beams are from the original structure,” said Mahoney. “The side room, which we refer to as Kate’s room, that room is really part of the original structure and we try to maintain the character of that room and really kind of keep the warmth and feel of how it was in 1780.”

Kate’s room was named by a previous owner, Mahoney said. The room houses six tables — and has inspired a few ghost stories as well.

“A local woman who is an intuitive wrote a book and did a reading and said there were two figures she saw in that side room, a lady in green with a green hat and at the bar area, a colonial gentleman,” Coots said.

Mahoney said she’s heard the stories, but cannot confirm that ghosts walk her tavern’s halls.

“I can tell you in my 25 years I have not seen one,” said Mahoney. “Maybe they’re afraid of me, I’m not sure.”

There are pictures of the tavern during centuries past on the wall, as well as an illustration of General Warren. Patrons order clam chowder, fish and chips, burgers, and other comfort food.

“Homemade clam chowder is the cornerstone of the menu,” Mahoney said. “We serve authentic clam chowder. I would argue we’re the best around. It’s thick, it’s rich, it’s creamy, and full of clams.”

The tavern’s 18th century menu was a sensible one, Coots said.

“Most taverns are not like what you see on television,” Coots said. “They mostly had soups and stews because they grabbed whatever they had and threw it in there.”

Warren Tavern hosts special programming throughout the year, including a celebration of Warren’s June 11 birthday.

“A bunch of reenactors such as myself will have a toast to Dr. Warren and answer questions,” Coots said.

Warren used to attend Freemason meetings at the tavern and today it is still a well-known community gathering spot, Mahoney said.

“We really pride ourselves in putting out a good product, making sure people are satisfied, but also giving them an experience so they feel they are at home,” she said.

Mahoney said travelers should check out the many small businesses and restaurants while visiting Charlestown.

“Charlestown is a great walking town,” Coots said.

Attractions worth visiting while in town, Coots said, are the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) and USS Constitution Museum, as well as the Bunker Hill Monument and Bunker Hill Museum. The Bunker Hill Monument is also part of the Freedom Trail, connecting 16 historical sites through Boston.

Editor’s note: In the coming months, will be featuring historical sites around Greater Boston as chosen by staff and suggested by readers. Enter your suggestion in the form below.

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