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The Historic Griswold Inn in Essex Village, Connecticut

The Griswold Inn is as old as America itself, having first opened its doors in 1776. This longevity makes the Gris one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the entire country, and a place you'll surely want to visit when living on the Connecticut Shoreline.

Photo of the Griswold Inn in Essex, CT

Expansions have made the Griswold Inn larger than it was in those early days. The Taproom, for example, is a schoolhouse constructed in 1735. It was then moved to its current location in 1801 by a team of oxen.


The Gris now has multiple dining rooms, a store, a wine bar, a live event venue, and, yes, you can still spend the night there if you wish.


This inn also survived British occupation during the War of 1812 and prohibition in the 1920s. The Gris never shut its doors, despite those existential challenges.


When you approach the Gris, it's like stepping back in time, which is something you'll have the chance to do often in historic Essex Village.


Enjoy the Historic Dining Room


In the inn's well-known dining area, every dish is curated by Executive Chef Saheed Toppin, whose father held the same position at the Gris for many years. The food offerings in the Historic Dining Room are diverse, with seafood, beef, poultry, and pork dishes on the menu, in addition to house-made desserts.


Beyond the cuisine, the atmosphere in the main dining room is a reason to visit, as the decor hasn't changed much since its early days, featuring antique furniture and artifacts from the local area. Casual attire is acceptable here, but you also won't feel out of place if you want to dress up for the night. The choice is up to you.


The Historic Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner seven days per week. It also serves the Hunt Breakfast every Sunday morning, which is a tradition started by British invaders during the War of 1812.


Experience the Wine Bar


For a slightly different experience, be sure to check out the Wine Bar at the Gris. Here, Chef Kelly Ferrisi has created a tapas menu featuring shareable plates and artisanal cheeses, in addition to unique desserts that you won't find anywhere else.


As for the wine, the bar has over 50 different varieties that you can sample by the glass, or you can go with a sampler flight and try a few of them. There's full bar service available in this dining room, as well, so even if you're aren't feeling a glass of wine, you can grab something to drink.


Much like the rest of the inn, the Wine Bar has an old-fashioned, classy appeal that will leave you feeling like you've traveled back in time. The décor is elegant, and locals believe that this is one of the most relaxing places to have a drink in Essex Village.


Visit the Iconic Taproom


Perhaps the most popular venue at the Griswold is the Tap Room, and there are many reasons for its appeal.


For starters, there's the bar's aesthetic charm, as its antique furniture and décor create a one of a kind location to enjoy a drink. In fact, the Tap Room has been called the most handsome barroom in America because of its unique characteristics.


Secondly, there's the atmosphere, which is lively at night, particularly when there's a band on stage. Something is going on at the Tap Room every night of the week, so no matter when you want to head for an evening on the town, you can do it there.


Finally, there's the menu, which is also designed by Chef Toppin and includes burgers, house-made chowders, salads, and fish and chips. Food is available between 2:30 and 8:00 PM every night, and you can order popcorn and drinks well into the evening afterward. There's also a Happy Hour every Friday between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.


Stay the Night


Despite now being famous for its bars and restaurants, the Gris got its start as an inn, and it still has that element to this day.


There are 33 rooms at the Griswold Inn, and none of them are the same. Some of them have fireplaces, while others feature town or water views, so you're guaranteed a unique experience anytime you stay.


Each room is decorated with antiques and period reproductions, giving them an old-world feel. Every chamber also has a private bathroom and internet access, but keep in mind that none of the rooms have televisions.


If you live on the outskirts of Essex Village or just want to experience the area in a different way, spending a night at the Griswold is an experience that you won't soon forget.


Living in History in Essex Village


Essex Village is like a time warp due to the sheer number of historical attractions in such a small area.


Other historic sites like the Connecticut River Museum, First Congregational Church in Essex, First Baptist Church in Essex, and Pratt House Museum are mere blocks from the Griswold Inn, so you can check them all out on the same day. In addition, Main Street and Prospect Street in downtown Essex Village are full of homes and other buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, making them well worth a visit.


Living in this part of the country puts you in the midst of one of its most historic areas, and there's no better place to start getting acquainted with history than at the Griswold Inn.

Published May 7, 2020 in Exploring Our Area, Local Information