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George Washington (shoulda) drank here

November 7, 2000

By Kurt Epps

It was really an oblique sort of tip and a bit of luck that led me to the Yorktown Pub in Yorktown, VA.

The guide at a tourist trap called the Yorktown Victory Centre was actually talking to a knot of female seasoned citizens in front of us, blue-haired types who had apparently inquired as to good local places to hit for dinner. They looked pretty well-to-do, but were probably hoping for an early-bird special.

"Nick"s Pavilion is a bit pricey," the guide advised, "but their food is superb."

Cuts me out, methought. "Pricey" is not for us little guys, considering a mission to feed a family of five with three young sons known for their aversion to "superb."

"There"s always the Yorktown Pub, too," the guide continued. "Their decor is not fancy, but they make a good crab cake sandwich."

Mental note made: No fancy decor (my kind of place), good crab cake sandwich (the missus"s kind of place), probably has good beer, kids can get fries.

Using another guide"s directions after our demonstration of musket firing and flax making was over, we passed Nick"s place and headed for the Yorktown Battlefield. There a brilliant George Washington, helped in great measure by the French, kicked British Lord Cornwallis"s backside so bad he refused to come out for the surrender. That surrender launched the US as a nation and changed world history forever.

Though the PubScout hardly needs an excuse to quaff, such a victory and the gathering November Virginia darkness called for a celebratory pint. The Yorktown Pub came conveniently to mind.

Like Herman Melville"s Ishmael, I wended my way to the water. Hard by the York River on Water Street (where Cornwallis attempted an unsuccessful escape), not fifty feet from the water"s edge, sat this throwback pub. In the shadow of the Coleman Bridge, two huge paned plate glass windows gave a clear view of the cozy inside of the pub and every patron therein. The warm glow from within, the wooden booths, the dark hardwood bar and the ranks of bottles behind it beckoned the war-weary traveler to set a spell.

The room itself was immediately reminiscent of the homey bar in that movie The Perfect Storm, and, just like in the movie, the customers had the look of regulars who know the food is good, the beer is good and the people are good. Just what a pub is supposed to be.

The food -- especially the crab cake sandwich -- WAS good. The people, as friendly as could be, including our waitress Michelle Beck whose face and figure are just waiting to be discovered by some visiting Hollywood director. A damned good waitress, too, considering she was running the room by herself, and it just kept getting busier.

It was in the beer selection, however, that the Yorktown Pub was worth mentioning as a stop in any beer geek"s travels.

Abita Bock (!) out of Louisiana, fer chrissakes! Not a beer that most pubs serve, but considering how valuable the French were to us back in the day, a totally understandable tip of the tricorn. Add the outstanding Weeping Radish Fest from NC. And St. George (Hampton, VA) Golden Ale on tap with its distinctive Dragon Head tap handle. See Yuengling"s Black and Tan and a host of others in bottles that ranged from Sam Adams to Woodchuck Cider. Of course, the standards (Bud, etc.) were also available, along with Sam Adams, Amstel, Heineken and a raft of others. And every one would be served in a frosted mason jar mug with a handle.

Affable Dean Tsamouras (new owner since May) seems to know what he"s doing in this place that has occupied this space since the Great Depression. Good food and good beer at prices that were decidedly un-pricey offered a winning combination in any decade.

I hoisted my Abita Bock, silently thanking the French Fleet that successfully blockaded the harbor fifty feet behind me, making the American victory at Yorktown possible. I was sure George Washington would have approved, and given his well known penchant for taverns, he would have definitely liked the Yorktown Pub were he alive today.

Had things turned out differently, the grey-wigged British aristocrat Cornwallis would probably have opted for the pricier Nick"s.

But like the little town that bears its name, the Yorktown Pub is a big victory for the little guy.

®Kurt E. Epps 2000 All Rights Reserved

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Kurt Epps