NYC's Historic Fraunces Tavern Restaurant Has Revolutionary War Connections

Though both Boston, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, claim the title as the birthplace of the American Revolution, there's a street in the Financial District of Manhattan's Lower East Side that may deserve to throw its hat in the ring. Supposedly called Pearl Street for the oysters the indigenous Lenape people once harvested there, this road stretches from Battery Park all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge and has been home to Thomas Edison's first public power plant, Alexander Hamilton's Bank of New York, and Harper's Magazine. 

However, before all that could happen, history was being made in a humble tavern on the corner of Pearl Street and Broad. A blend of both yellow and red brick, the Fraunces Tavern is marked with an auspicious metal plaque proclaiming its historical importance. Here, the beginnings of the American Revolution were whispered among a group of Colonialists known as the Sons of Liberty as they dined on classic tavern fare and drank tankards of ale.

Their calculated strike at the Boston Harbor is considered by many to be the beginning of the American Revolution. In fact, Fraunces Tavern was home to one of the final grand moments of the Revolution as well, capped by then-General George Washington. So, what is the full story behind this restaurant's historical legacy? 

History of the Fraunces Tavern

Though the Fraunces Tavern is most famously remembered as a restaurant, it existed as a private residence for the De Lancey family, a dance hall, office space, and warehouse before it came under the ownership of Samuel Fraunces in 1762. Fraunces christened his new restaurant as the Queen's Head Tavern, a nod to Queen Charlotte. Perhaps through its central location or Fraunces' fine management, the tavern became a hotspot for New York City organizations and clubs, where political ideas were traded over pints of beer and heels of bread. 

One such iconic group was the Sons of Liberty, Colonists who banded together around a mutual outrage for the taxes attached to the Stamp Act of 1765. By 1773, the infamous Tea Act had renewed their anger, and the group began plotting a blockade of all tea being imported into the 13 colonies. It was at Fraunces Tavern that the Sons of Liberty decided to take things a step further with the Boston Tea Party, where much-unwanted tea was dumped into the harbor. 

Beyond this seminal moment, the tavern also acted as an important meeting place during the Revolutionary War, serving as the home for the New York Provincial Congress in 1776. Unfortunately, Manhattan was retaken by the British later that year, and the tavern became rife with red coats and loyalists. Finally, in 1783, as the British evacuated the island, the Fraunces Tavern hosted a farewell feast for General Washington and his steadfast Colonial troops. 

Eating at the tavern today

For those wishing to visit this historical landmark, you can head to the Fraunces Tavern Museum located upstairs. But for those looking for a literal taste of history, the Fraunces Tavern restaurant is a must-see. Split into four uniquely decorated concept rooms — The Independence Bar, The Tallmadge Room, the Hideout Bar, and the Upstairs Piano Bar — there's a little something for everyone. Over 200 whiskeys, 130 craft beers, and numerous cocktails are served at each bar, with the Tallmadge Room acting as the most traditional dining hall. 

Though George Washington and his compatriots were known to dine on turtles and drink Madiera wine (Washington's favorite) in the 18th century, today, the tavern serves much more modern fare. Expect to find elevated pub food, like decadent burgers, lobster rolls, and scotch eggs. Old-school favorites include the homey chicken pot pie and the filet mignon on a stone, a seared steak served up on a hot lava stone. Even if it isn't the exact menu our Founding Fathers would have ordered from, you'll still be eating and drinking on the spot where American Democracy got its first stirrings.