At the end of February, the Washington Post gave the chef Ian Boden and his twenty-six-seat restaurant the Shack an exemplary three-star review. Located less than three hours south of D.C. in Staunton, Virginia, the Shack has become a hometown spot as well as a destination, and hungry patrons have flocked there to sample Boden’s tasting menu, which rotates with the likes of fried Pink Lady apples, latke okonomiyaki, venison tartare, and wild striped bass with collard saag and field peas. “We got three weeks of being absolutely slammed before COVID hit and we had to go to take-out only,” Boden says.
The downtime—and the increased demand for takeaway food—led Boden and his wife, Leslie, to transform the storage building next door into the Staunton Grocery, a revitalization of the duo’s former high-end market designed to sell Southern and mid-Atlantic foodstuffs. “Any time you want to buy specialty things, you have to drive to Charlottesville, which is forty-five minutes away,” he says. “We want to be a community pantry of sorts.” Boden will not only stock his shelves with the likes of Burnt & Salty mustard from Charleston, Pennsylvania’s Keepwell Vinegar, and Louisville’s Bourbon Barrel Foods’s sauces and spices, but will also invite those makers to teach demos and give talks, shortening the gap between purveyors and consumers. “We want to help people put a face to the food,” Boden says.
In addition, Boden will also serve sandwiches and other grab-and-go delights, including the couple’s baklava that they’ll bake once a week at the new spot. “I’m a Russian-Hungarian Jew, and Leslie is from Swoope, Virginia, so we’ve slowly developed a baklava recipe that is totally Southern and all local,” Boden says. Their twist on the traditional Eastern European and Middle Eastern treat incorporates local pecans and black walnuts, and gets heightened with Appalachian-made syrup, honey, vanilla, and butter. “On one of our particularly slow weeks at the Shack, six people ordered just baklava,” Boden says. “It made me so angry, but my wife was just laughing. It’s that good.”