City Tavern Philadelphia Is A Historically Authentic Colonial Restaurant

City Tavern Philadelphia

A great close-up of the sign at City Tavern Philadelphia.

Center City District Location - RED - Historic District - Society Hill

City Tavern Philadelphia is the result of meticulous historical research - a fine dining restaurant that instantly transports the visitor back to colonial Philadelphia. Although it is not the original building, it is a perfect replica of the original City Tavern, a favorite hangout of such notables as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams, to name just three.

Added, Monday, August 2, 2010...

Hours of Operation

City Tavern can be reached at 215.413.1443.

It is currently open daily for lunch at 11:30 AM, and dinner is served from 4 PM Monday through Saturday; dinner is served starting at 3 PM.

Getting to City Tavern

City Tavern is located at 138 South 2nd Street in Old City - at the intersection of 2nd and Walnut Streets. It is directly across the street from Welcome Park - which has the biography of William Penn on its walls, and a gigantic reproduction of the original Philadelphia street map on the ground. You can easily combine a trip to both.

Added Tuesday, August 3, 2010...

Via the Phlash

When in season - from May 1 to Halloween - the purple Phlash Trolley has a stop at 2nd and Market Streets. Once you get off the Phlash, you just walk two blocks south on 2nd Street - you'll pass Chestnut, and then reach Walnut, where City Tavern is located.

Two important notes, though - in addition to the fact that it only operates from May through October, the Phlash stops operating around 5:30 PM- 6 PM, depending on the day - and you're probably going to be finished your dinner, after it stops for the day. So bear that in mind.


SEPTA offers multiple ways to get there.

If you are coming from the outskirts of the city or the suburbs, your best bet may be SEPTA Regional Rail - the vast majority of all inbound Regional Rail trains stop at Market East Station - located at 11th and Market Streets.

From there, you can take the Blue Line / Market-Frankford Line / "the el" - which are all just various names for an identical mass-transit option. From the 11th Street Station, which you can reach without leaving Market East Station or going outside, make sure you take a train that is headed "Eastbound to Frankford".

It's important that you stay alert, since you'll be on the Blue Line for only three stops - you're boarding at 11th Street and getting off at 2nd Street. From there, just walk down 2nd Street until you reach City Tavern, two blocks south.

You can also take any number of SEPTA bus routes, east on Market Street, until you reach either 2nd or 3rd Street and Market. Disembark there and walk two blocks toward 2nd and Walnut.

Added, Tuesday, August 3, 2010...

Getting to City Tavern Via Amtrak 30th Street Station

If you are visiting Philadelphia via Amtrak, you will be disembarking at the major Amtrak station in the region, 30th Street Station - located at 30th and Market Streets. This is 30 blocks away from 2nd and Walnut, which would be an expensive cab ride.

However, your Amtrak ticket is valid (on that same day) for free travel to and from 30th Street on SEPTA Regional Rail, so you can ride to either Market East Station (or Suburban Station - located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard). In the case of City Tavern, you want Market East.

When you get off the Amtrak train, follow signs for "SEPTA Regional Rail". Once there, ask a SEPTA employee to direct you to an eastbound train that is going to Market East Station. (You shouldn't have to wait long, just a few minutes, tops, due to the number of trains.) Before you get on the train, check with the conductor - "Is this train going to Market East?"

It will be a 10 minute ride from 30th Street to Market East, since you need to pass through Suburban Station first. You'll know you're at Market East, when you see a multi-colored mosaic tile in the tunnel - and you'll come up to 11th and Market Streets. Then, just follow directions above, to get to City Tavern.

Added Monday, July 26, 2010...

City Tavern Was the Social Center for the British Army During the Occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-78

Ironically, City Tavern became the social center for the British Army, which occupied Philadelphia from September 1777 to June 1778.

On September 11, 1777, British forces under General Sir William Howe defeated the Continental Army under General George Washington at the Battle of Brandywine, fought in what is now the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Once the British won this battle, there was no resistance to Howe's capture of the American capital. British troops took Philadelphia without firing a shot. To some they were an army of occupation. But to the city's Loyalist residents, they were liberators, and great fun was had during their nine months in Philadelphia.

All of the Philadelphia taverns were haunted by British soldiers and their Hessian allies, rented as mercenaries by King George III. But the City Tavern was most prominent. "The City Tavern... was fitted up & open'd to receive company in the style of Public Rooms, every Evening (except Sunday and a Ball every Thursday)." (p. 211)

City Tavern also became the largest gambling casino in Philadelphia, thanks to the Hessians - except, of course, on most Thursday nights, when the aforementioned Balls were taking palce.

Captain Johann Ewald, a Hessian officer who kept a highly revelatory diary of his experiences in America, wrote that "More than once I have seen 50,000 dollars change hands - where some made their fortune but many their ruin." Another Hessian, Colonel von Wurmb, recorded that "We have parties and gamble whereby every night 700 and 800 pounds are lost and won".

The bank had been started by a Captain Wheeden of the elite Hessian jager units, described as a "pharao [Faro] bank", which according to Ewald, always had cash on hand of 1,000 guineas. The final night of gambling took place on April 30, 1778, when Wheeden's bank - apparently as a gesture of goodwill - permitted the players to pocket all of the money gambled that night. He could afford to do so - a British officer named Peebles claimed that the bank had won 7,000 pounds over the course of the season.

This had a meaningful effect on the British forces, aside from entertainment. Officers at the time were required to buy their commissions. But due to the gambling losses, many officers found themselves in dire financial straits, and in desperation sold their commissions to less experienced officers to raise quick funds, to handle the debts.

There were 13 balls hosted at City Tavern, with the final one staged on April 30 - which was apparently viewed as the grand finale, since that was the same night that the casino permitted the players to win all the money on the table.

On May 9, it was clear that the party was over, as an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Ledger read as follows:

"The City Tavern to be let and entered upon the 1st of May - For terms enquire James Allen, Walnut above 3rd." (p. 213)

Source: With the British Army in Philadelphia, 1777-78, by John W. Jackson.

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