Beethoven’s Inn — Oh, How I Miss Thee

beethovens_inn_sqFrom birth to present I’ve lived in Williamsburg exactly one summer and one full year.

The summer I speak of was in 1986 when my mother, father, and I moved from Dandy in York County to Kingspoint in Williamsburg. The morning after the move, my parents decided to get a divorce, and so that Williamsburg stay was limited to one summer. I was disappointed (on a few counts).

My second stint as a citizen of Williamsburg came after I graduated CNU and moved to an apartment there, where I lived while working for an engineering firm in Newport News. The year was 1996 — ten years later.

While I’ve spent a rather small percentage of my life as a Williamsburg resident, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Williamsburg. I love the colonial atmosphere and have enjoyed frequently visiting with my family, as both child and adult. I also had a habit of dating Williamsburg girls in my youth (and outside that, those I met in Williamsburg, at any rate). Ahh, the romance of Williamsburg…

Nowadays, most of my family’s visits are centered around the Great Wolf Lodge, which my daughter loves. But at each visit my mind wanders back — far back — to people and places that were truly special to me. One of them is the now defunct Beethoven’s Inn which was located on Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg.

Beethoven’s Inn was a special place. It was a New York-style deli that was opened by Jim Wesson on December 16, 1975, 205 years — to the day — after Beethoven’s birth.

I formed wonderful memories there. It had a rich atmosphere with lovely classical music always on tap. The sign at the door warned, “We are a slow food restaurant. Please sit back and enjoy the great food and good music.” Despite the warning, the service was snappy and, as the warning suggests, the classical music was lovely.

I visited for the first time around the age of 12 with my mother. Another notable visit was the evening  in 1985 that the computer geek that was me (and still is me) brought home an original 128K Macintosh from Next Generation Computers in the King’s Mill Village Shoppes. My family and I stopped in for dinner on the way home. I was super excited, and the meal was part of it. Memorable. Years later, I visited on numerous occasions with (Williamsburg) girlfriends and various other pals. We always had a great time. My favorite menu item was, as I recall, the “Handel, Bach & Scarlatti.” As with all of the sandwiches, it came with a cup of home-made soup.

Jim Wesson sits in the Inn before it closes

Wesson sold the deli to Beth Bockelmann and long-time employee Dave Andrews in 1998. They ran it for a few years, but sadly the story ended not long after. Beethoven’s Inn was closed for good and memorabelia apparently auctioned off. I would love to have heard about that in time to walk away with a keepsake, but the news came late to me, living here in Alexandria.

I never had the chance to show the Inn to my wife or my daughter.

ladder_to_the_moonA couple of years ago I dug into the history that I’ve laid out here and tried to make contact with some of the owners and their families (old email addresses, Facebook, LinkedIn) in hopes of acquiring simply a single photograph of the interior of the place. I came up blank, sadly. I so liked the atmosphere that, when I came across it, living in Charlottesville, I purchased an O’Keefe print that was displayed on the back wall of the Inn and had it on my den wall for years (it’s now in my office in D.C.).

Beethoven’s Inn. It was a lovely place where I formed lovely memories. Surely I’m not alone in this. Please share your experiences — and your photos.

Update [January 9, 2017]: Please read my follow-up post, Memorabilia and Memories of Beethoven’s Inn.

Update [August 6, 2019]: I’ve uncovered an article from the Daily Press newspaper (July 31, 1998) covering the closure of the Beethoven’s Inn that included a photo of Jim Wesson and the interior of the Inn. I have added the photo to this post.

18 Comments

  1. I have very fond memories of Beethoven’s Inn in Williamsburg. It was the first place that I ever had true New York style cheesecake. It was the location of my first date with my dear husband. I miss them both!

  2. Blake – this is a terrific blog (I just stumbled across it), and this post in particular really hit home. I loved that place. I remember going there in the mid-80s with my parents and sister a few times and loving it. I also visited fairly often as an employee at Colonial Williamsburg from 1995-1997. I stopped going sometime around the beginning of my grad school, and we moved to Charlottesville from Williamsburg in 1999. I miss that spot.

  3. Was just listening to some Scarlatti on Thanksgiving, and this reminded me of the Handel, Bach, and Scarlatti at Beethoven’s. So I searched to see if it was still there after all these years (graduated W&M in 1987). I well remember that chamber music poster. Thank you for the memories.

  4. hi there,
    I am Jim Wesson of Beethoven’s Inn.
    I now live at 1184#24 Jamestown Rd in Village Green wmsbg 23185
    All can send me a letter and I will send you a copy of the menu.
    Someone recently told me there was a sign of mine from Beethoven’s old days in the kitchen of Aromas now.
    It says “Don’t bitch ,just quit”!

    Anyone can call me when in town for a nice chat.
    Must leave your phone number if I am not in.
    Loved the article
    peace and blessings and feel free to call or write
    Wmbgwesson@gmail.com
    757 220 1358

  5. Alan D. Strange

    January 23, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    I, too, have fond memories of BI. I went there regularly in the year that I spent in Williamsburg (Summer of 1984-85), taking a Masters in Colonial American History at the College. I went back on subsequent visits and ate there with my wife. What a wonderful place it was and it’s a real delight to see Jim Wesson himself (alive and kicking!) respond here. My wife and I spent a week there this past June and among the places that we noted missing over our many visits, BI was near the top of the list! All the best to you, Jim, in your retirement and to all who have good remembrances of Beethoven’s Inn.

  6. Stephen Gross

    May 8, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I used to go there once every other week during high school (mid 90s). Favorite sandwich was ham & broccoli & russian dressing on kaiser. Man, that was awesome. Sad to hear it’s closed…

  7. At her suggestions, I met my wife at Beethoven’s Inn for our first date. It was the first time I’d been there, and the first time I saw her lovely face. We’ve been married now for 20 years! I, too, deeply miss that magical place…

  8. A nice testimonial to Beethoven’s Inn, which opened its doors in 1975. I was fortunate to be a patron in 1976-78 (and again in 1981-82), in the early years of its existence, and for that I’m thankful. Best Reuben sandwich I ever had was at Beethoven’s Inn, a small off-campus eatery (no longer there) close to my apartment while I was a student in Williamsburg, Va. A spartan but elegant establishment that played classical music, the perfect setting to relax while savoring a perfect Reuben sandwich.

  9. Fond memories of Beethoven’s Inn. I was around 13 the first time my parents and I visited. At that time I was a Dark Shadows fan and fascinated by all things victorian-ish, so I too extra delight in t he old reed (pump) organ. As for the food, no one else will ever hold a candle to the french onion soup.

  10. Marian and I loved going there. It’s where I discovered the joy of gazpacho. Also really liked their painting that depicted A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  11. I have great memories of Beethoven’s Inn. I frequented the spot for meals while living in town while going to grad school at W&M from 96-98. Great food and fantastic service! The soups were good, especially the French Onion. They also had the best Reuben sandwich I have ever tasted! Great owner and friendly staff along with the classical music always provided a great retreat from the stresses of student life.

  12. Kay A. Van Valkenburg

    February 2, 2022 at 8:02 pm

    We used to travel up to Williamsburg from Hampton back in the 70s because we loved Beethoven’s so much. Jim was always a wonderful host! When we moved up to the burg in the 80s we went on a weekly basis until it closed in the late 90s. We actually would run into Bruce Hornsby and family once in a while. My “regular” was a hot pastrami and swiss on rye with mustard. Sooo good! Just like NYC! I can still picture us in our usual booth, see Jim hangin’ out with his customers (we always had such great chats), and hear the music. It just wasn’t the same after he sold it. Such fond memories. I used to run into Jim at Aroma’s in the early 2000’s, but haven’t seen him in a long time. I hope he is doing well.

  13. Anne Bentley McCrau

    February 2, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    I used to go often with my parents. The
    Inn must have advertised on WMBG/WBCI (my dad was the GM). Loved roast beef on Kaiser (why can’t you find Kaiser rolls these days?) and French onion soup. My dad loved a sailor sandwich. It was always so cozy. Great food, great memories.

  14. Beethoven’s Inn was my husband and my go to place for fancy dates in college ❤️

  15. Dr Rick Campana

    February 3, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    My favorite restaurant to have lunch, especially the corn beef sandwich. My clinic was just down the road from Beethoven’s Inn. Many great memories of this Williamsburg Landmark!

    Dr. Rick Campana

  16. I worked in the kitchen at Beethoven’s Inn in the 80’s. I still base my versions on Beethoven’s Inn recipes for Cream of Mushroom Soup, Gazpacho (including the secret ingredient), Frozen Chocolate Torte, and Potato Salad, which was the best I’ve ever tasted.

    Ann was a warm and gracious presence. I remember many of the patrons and my coworkers fondly, and I still see one of my kitchen buddies occasionally at social gatherings in the ‘Burg.

    And then there’s Jim.

    A lot of people thought of Jim as a gruff, abrupt person, and I guess he is. But he is also a kind and caring man with a sense of fairness and loyalty and a razor-sharp wit. When I hear someone deliver a Dad Joke in Jim’s cadence, sometimes a memory of Jim comes with it. Jim would have probably told it better.

    There were aspects of a father figure in Jim, for me. In a non-intrusive, no nonsense way, he would give advice on anything from to reheat a soup to how to wrap my head around a breakup with a boyfriend. I learned a lot more than how to cook from Jim, and I’m grateful.

  17. Frederick Gusler

    February 4, 2022 at 4:04 am

    It was 1979 or 1980, my parents had just separated and I was in 5th grade. My dad moved into an apartment and he never cooked, so whenever my sisters and I saw him we ate at a few places pretty often, and thankfully Beethoven’s was one of them. My Dad is a meat and potatoes guy, not an adventurous diner, so at 11 years old I had never tried the vast majority of the items on the menu.
    It was a culinary awakening for me! My first sub (The Yellow Submarine, my favorite!), first meatball sub, first sandwich on a Kaiser roll, first pastrami, maybe the first rare roast beef I’d ever tried. I remember telling Dad one night in 6th grade that I only needed to try a couple of sandwiches and then I will have had them all at least once!
    The experience at BI was cultural as much as culinary, as any great dining experience should be. There was a vibe, there was ambiance without pretension, and of course, Jim. I always enjoyed talking to him and as I grew into my teens we talked more. I remember talking about basketball and baseball with him. I recall the group of guys that met there every week and talked baseball. I mean serious geeky stuff; records and random stats, and I loved it!
    When I returned home from overseas in 1994 having spent 14 months on a sailboat, I asked my Dad, Stepmom and little brother to take me there.
    In May of 1998 I flew home after spending over a year in Korea and a month in India. I was depressed and ready to be home in Williamsburg. Again though, from the airport we went straight to Beethoven’s at my request. Jim was there and spoke to us as always, but I could feel his energy and the energy of the place wasn’t there. Im so glad we went that night, it would be my last visit before he sold it a few months later.
    I went to school with Jim’s kids, grew up with and think highly of them, and I’m glad Jim has been able to enjoy his grandkids in retirement. A few years ago, I looked through my high school graduation pictures my dad took, and there was one with Jim shaking my hand. I remember that moment, and even looking at it now I can feel that he was proud of me. I’m quite proud to say I was a regular at Beethoven’s Inn.

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