Located approximately 1-1/2-hours north of Roanoke and a tad longer than that west of Richmond, Staunton, VA (pronounced STANN-tun), has been recognized as one of the best kept foodie secrets in the country, as well as the culinary epicenter of the Shenandoah Valley.
For a city of only approximately 24,000 people, Staunton offers an incredible selection of locally owned restaurants, coffee and tea shops, brewery and tap rooms, wine bars, and specialty food stores. So, whatever your gastronomic penchant, you will find it here!
There are so many fantastic places to eat, its hard to name just a few without feeling bad about leaving the others out! Nevertheless, local and visitor faves include Kathy's Restaurant, serving all day breakfast and hearty American cuisine; The Depot Grille for steak and seafood (there is also one in Lynchburg), Stella Mia Pizzeria for gourmet pizza and pasta specialties, The Shack, featuring Shenandoah Mountain and Eastern European Jewish family recipes, and Clocktower Eats & Sweets for some of the freshest, homemade breakfasts served all day, appetizers, burgers, wraps and paninis, and mac ‘n cheese combos (think The Philly Mac, Fried Buffalo Chicken Mac, And Chicken & Broccoli Mac!).
Aioli Mediterranean Tapas is popular for their fresh, seasonal ingredients used to create their mouth-watering and “creatively prepared Mediterranean food concentrating on the Southern European Mediterranean area,” featuring items like fried polenta with smoked paprika and a sundried tomato vinaigrette, Spanish tapas and seafood paella, bacon wrapped quail stuffed with date goat cheese and served with orange segments and a pomegranate reduction, and house-made salmon gravlax with scallion blini, pickled julienne cucumber, lemon creme fraiche, and capers.
Massaki Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar features a premier, award-winning sushi bar and original Japanese style steaks and seafood and homemade sauces and salad dressings, with menu options like shrimp and vegetable tempura, Hibachi swordfish, Mahi Mahi, shrimp, tuna, scallops, NY Steak, filet mignon or lobster, teriyaki salmon, chicken or vegetables, and several kinds of sushi rolls, sashimi combos, and appetizers.
Mill Street Grill, a long-time and quintessential Staunton gathering place, has one of the most unique settings in town, situated inside of a turn-of-the-century flourmill. Here, be sure to try the baked goat cheese, chicken and shrimp marinara, prosciutto and provolone stuffed chicken, and fan favorite Oysters Rockefeller, lasagna Bolognese, charbroiled boneless pork chops, and barbecued beef, baby back, and St. Louis ribs.
Their Greek Mahi Mahi is outstanding: pan seared in olive oil with roasted red pepper, Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, basil, oregano and finished with white wine, feta and parmesan cheeses. The Crab Cake Dinner is made with backfin crab meat with egg, lemon, garlic, and breadcrumbs, pan-fried with cocktail sauce on the side and served with cole slaw.
The Vegetable Platter is much more sumptuous and tasty than most places, featuring zucchini, yellow squash, onions, mushrooms, carrots, red bell peppers, and broccoli sautéed with angelica butter and topped with shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, served with your choice of baked potato, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, rice, fried green tomatoes, French fries, vegetable of the day or fresh fruit (yeah baby!). Mill Street Grill also offers an extensive wine list and is known for their amazing creative cocktail and spirits options.
I've been to a lot of Mexican restaurants in my day, but nothing like the Baja Bean Co.
First, the menu is HUGE! But even deeper than that, they have some of the most unique combinations, from their tacos to their burritos, enchiladas, fajitas quesadillas, appetizers, and salads, than you can possibly imagine.
Take for example The Word Travels Burrito, featuring grilled shrimp, pork, bacon, rice and smoked gouda topped with a raspberry chipotle barbecue and cilantro cream, or the Big Easy Burrito with shrimp, smoked sausage, red pepper corn salsa, peppers, onions and rice, and topped with a tangy sauce and Jack cheese.
For those of you who like fried eggs you have several options to rest them upon like the Enchiladas Cubanas: braised pork grilled with salsa and flour tortillas, topped with tomatillo and cilantro cream over black beans and rice. And there’s the enchiladas Monterrey: flour tortillas filled with Jack cheese and topped with Mylanta slaw, and served with Baja beans, rice, and sour cream.
Want something truly unique? Oooh and aaah all over the Shrimp and Grits—shrimp grilled with bacon and corn salsa and served over a garlic cheese grit cake with a honey Diablo drizzle. Then there's the smoked sausage hash—hot smoked sausage over potatoes grilled with peppers and onions, then topped with fried eggs and cheddar.
For vegetarians and vegans there’s the Vegan Empanadas: fluffy pastries filled with soy “chorizo” and artichoke hearts and drizzled with raspberry chipotle. The pesto quesadilla is filled with shredded chicken, basil pesto and smoked gouda. Another great vegan option here is the Smoky ‘Shroom: grilled mushrooms, corn salsa, onions and smoked gouda. The fajita options also have something for vegans as well with the tofu or artichoke hearts fajitas grilled and served sizzling with onions, peppers and tomatoes with a side plate of Baja beans, rice, cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole and flour tortillas.
In the salad category there's the Porky Peach—braised pork and grilled peaches over chopped lettuce with Cotija cheese, red onion, and an orange vinaigrette—and the Adelmar Salad comes with steamed seasoned shrimp and grilled salsa, over spinach with Jack cheese and cilantro cream.
Heat fans (flavor not basketball!) will find several things notably marked as spicy, like the Combo Caliente, a spicy burrito with Baja beans and their homemade chorizo, and a chicken and cheese and jalapeño enchilada, all topped with beer battered jalapeno slices, Baja rice, corn salsa, and sour cream! Yee-ow!
Overall, all of their offerings are lovingly made from scratch with dried beans, fresh avocados, whole tomatoes, raw meats, and as many locally sourced items as possible, including roasting the peppers to make their own hot sauces. Additionally, all dishes are made-to-order so they can handle most dietary restrictions.
Can’t decide what to try first? Then maybe Biteseeing Staunton is for you! Their 3-1/2 hour guided walking tours take participants on a mouthwatering culinary journey peppered (pun intended!) with tidbits about the city’s the rich history and magnificent architectural structures. It’s the best of both worlds!
Suffice to say that Staunton is definitely an amazing, and one of my new favorite gastronomic cities in the country.
Check out these other features about what makes Staunton a great travel destination!