After attending culinary school in New England and spending ten years in the fast-paced New York City restaurant scene, Virginia native Ian Boden moved back to his home state in 2006—although to a very different area than the Washington D.C. suburbs of his childhood. Instead, Boden settled in the sleepy Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton because, as he puts it, his wife, Leslie, from nearby Swoope, “had no interest in leaving the area and I had no interest in leaving my wife.”
After a handful of restaurant ventures, Boden opened The Shack—located in a tiny building that reminded the couple of Leslie’s late grandmother’s home—in 2014 and quickly began garnering acclaim. “It was supposed to be temporary,” he says, “but it turned into a beast.” The menu is diverse, drawing on both regional cuisine and Boden’s background. Think chicken and matzo dumplings, tomato salad dressed with sorghum vinaigrette, or rice grits infused with the pungency of ramps. “I cook food from the South, but I’m a Jew with roots in the North, and there’s surprisingly a lot in common,” he says, citing the long history of poverty in both Appalachian and Eastern European cultures as the greatest overlap.
Boden’s favorite nearby restaurants also pull inspiration from roots and region to bring a variety of cuisines to rural Virginia. Next time you’re road-tripping on Route 11 through the Shenandoah Valley or day-tripping from D.C., stop in at one or two of his recommendations. For The Shack, you’ll likely need a reservation—there are only twenty-six seats in the 400-square-foot space, and they fill up fast.
960 W. Beverley Street, Staunton
“Newtown opened the same time I opened my first restaurant. It’s a bakery by day, but they make pizzas at night. They got a grant from the city and bought a wood-fired pizza oven. The bread is phenomenal.” newtownbaking.com
300 N. Central Avenue, Staunton
“Gloria is a third-generation pupusa [traditional Salvadorian stuffed tortilla] maker—both her mother and her grandmother also made them. She started in the farmer’s market, then she got a food truck, and now she has a brick-and-mortar location. I get breakfast there every Saturday morning for me and my wife.” gloriaspupuseria.com
Réunion Bakery and Espresso
26 S. New Street, Staunton
“This is a new restaurant owned by Bryan Hollar, who’s originally from Pittsburgh. He opened the bakery a few months ago. The pastries are spectacular. It’s our new morning go-to.” reunionbakery.com
Chicano Boy Taco
240 N. Central Avenue #6, Staunton
“This is a taqueria owned by Justin Hershey, and it just had its one-year anniversary. He worked for me at Staunton Grocery, then Glass Haus, then helped me open The Shack. He’s half Mexican, so he wanted to explore his roots. He had taco pop-ups for a while at The Shack, then he had a monthly thing at a local brewery before he opened Chicano Boy.” chicanoboytaco.com
Beverley Street Convenience
2103 W. Beverley Street, Staunton
“Beverley Street Convenience looks like it used to be a 7-11, but it’s been here forever. It’s a little convenience store—but it doesn’t sell gasoline. The food is good, but the chicken is absolutely great. The best fried chicken ever. It’s greasy, salty, and crunchy. Literally everything you want in fried chicken.” beverley-street-convenience-1.letseat.at