By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher©2014
(Part 7 of a Series)
One of our delights in revisiting Old Salem, now for the fourth time, was discovering the “new” tavern, officially named The Tavern in Old Salem. We’ve always loved the costumed servers, the tables set with period pewter, but this visit, we especially enjoyed the cuisine.
The new tavern experience is a new dining experience. We had the opportunity to learn why during a conversation with Chef Jared Keiper – meet him in the accompanying video.
The family-owned restaurant dates to 1816 as an annex to the original Tavern built in 1764. It sits facing the cobblestoned main street of Old Salem, where visitors stroll day and night. New owners are the Keiper family, led by parents Lori and Rick. She was an innkeeper at a B&B in Old Salem, and he was in food sales. Their two sons, both in the restaurant business, now run the Tavern, with their youngest, Jordan, handling front-of-the-house duties, and Jared taking the helm as head chef. Jared explains: “We’d always talked about opening a family restaurant, and this one just came out of the blue. It was kind of meant to be. It was supposed to happen, I think.”
They strive to carry on historic traits the restaurant has held dear for hundreds of years, starting with the Chicken Pie. Jared proudly calls it their staple dish, adding, “When I came on as the chef for my parents, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted with the menu, but we can’t change the Chicken Pie.” Chef Jared confesses they did change the crust, creating a combination of a sour cream crust from one of his former restaurants and an historically accurate corn meal crust recipe that was used in Old Salem.
The restaurant prides itself on local, fresh ingredients and historical authenticity. Shopping weekly at the local Cobblestone Farmers’ Market, the chef notes, “We try to keep (the Tavern’s food) historically accurate and local. There’s no shrimp or salmon or tuna; instead we use crawfish, catfish and trout, ingredients” that would have been here. He also has entered into a co-operative with Old Salem Gardens, that only uses heirloom or heritage seeds, which can be traced back for over a hundred years.
The new owners’ menu makes it difficult for us to choose among the Sunday brunch offerings – though, of course, we each get something different so we can share.
Kathy settles on a the Duck Confit, Portabella, Spinach and Brie Omelet with House Fries and declares it a hit. Fletcher opts for the signature Moravian Chicken Pie and Gravy served with Red-Skin Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans. This dish was as delicious as it sounds.
The Sunday brunch menu changes monthly; the main menu every two months. The quiche offering on our visit was Duck, Bacon, Marco Polo Cheddar Cheese and a side salad with grilled peaches and goat cheese. Tempting, right?
Spring is the tavern’s busiest season followed by the Christmas holidays, which are quite special at Old Salem (See our previous coverage on an Old Salem Christmas here in AAA GoCarolina. Nearby is the impressive Tanglewood Light Show. Chef Jared quickly points out that you’ll need reservations during Christmas time.
The big discovery for us was a dessert offering that can be traced to the 1800s. The Syllabub served here features Shelton Vineyards’ Chardonnay (a regional winery). Owner Rick Keiper filled us in, sharing a clipping about the 1727 Compleat Housewife Cookbook recipe for creating this popular dessert of the day with dry white wine, sherry, cream, sugar and lemon juice marinated overnight and served with seasonal fruit in a parfait glass. We can describe it as a light, fresh, flavorful, creamy whipped, light-type finish to the meal.
Chef Jared says, “A lot of our servers compare it to an adult milkshake, and it is the perfect dessert for a hot summer day.” He describes his take on ingredients as “froth cream, lemon zest, white wine, sherry wine, and we top it off with whatever fresh fruit was have. “One of those might be fresh figs from the trees around Old Salem, one in fact right outside the Tavern’s front door.
In closing, the young chef with the big smile notes: “I think people need to come give The Tavern in Old Salem a chance. We have made some slight changes. We’re in a beautiful setting with a great historic atmosphere and hopefully we have food that can match that.”
IF YOU’RE GOING: The Tavern in Old Salem is located at 736 S. Main St., Winston-Salem and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and is closed Mondays. For more, visit http://thetaverninoldsalem.ws/ or call 336.722.1227.
For more on other accommodations, dining and area attractions, go to www.VisitWinstonSalem.com. The city recently marked sits 100th birthday since the 1913 merger of Winston (founded in 1849) and Salem (founded in 1766) resulting in “Winston-Salem.”
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• Other stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Other Stories by Kathy M. Newbern
• Stories by J.S. Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiner Kathy M. Newbern and spouse, J.S. Fletcher, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.