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Tom wrote a first bite about this in the Post in early March. Esquire featured an article entitled, "Found: the incredible restaurant in the middle of nowhere that nobody knows about." Despite the distance this is a serious restaurant that Washingtonians should be considering for a destination. Simply, it is Rose's Luxury with seven tables and a total of one person in the kitchen: the gifted Ian Boden. I would actually suggest in the weeks to come this will be the most difficult table in America to find a seat at. An excellent video: My little essay about it: The early 19th century insane asylum, Western State Hospital, in downtown Staunton, is now a condo called the Villages. For its last 15 or so years it was a penitentiary. The small one hundred + year old graveyard with individual crosses on the graves of inmates is outside a building's window. Condos. The guard towers still stand. Across the street is Wright's Dairy Maid, a small town '50's hamburger and frozen custard stand that is still popular with families and teenagers camped out by their cars and sitting at picnic tables. A hundred or so yards from the guard towers which no longer need to be staffed. Whatever contrast the image of an American Graffitiish drive in across the street from a former institution for the criminally insane conjures actually doesn't approach the reality of sitting in the primitive, spartan Shack that James Beard semi finalist Ian Boden now holds forth in a few blocks away. He opened this three or four months ago after moving back to Staunton from his stay at Charlottesville's Glass Haus Kitchen which was built for him. This is, literally a shack. An outpost in a small town of character presenting itself as an affordable Charlottesville. But with a dinner destination that would be worthy of Barracks Row or anywhere in D. C. Or New York-where Chef Boden was trained. Open four nights week, wednesday through saturday, with a $55 four course prix fixe menu on weekend nights this is as extraordinary of a dining experience as I've had in America considering the setting. Rose's Luxury in a small, literal wood framed hundred year old shack. A total of three staff including the chef who stands alone in the closet sized kitchen. You are literally having dinner in his "house" even if it is a shack. And no reservations. First come first serve. They open at five. This is an individual expression of a man's passion who happens to be a world class chef. I would write about what we had but the menu changes every night and there is no telling what you'll find on it if you visit. I will say this: one of my wife's dishes included the hamburger mentioned in the above linked video. I took several bites. Perhaps the best explosively juicy first bite of a hamburger I have ever had. But that was only the start of an extraordinary small town adventure: flavorful textured ramen noodles with razor clams, rabbit gnocchi and three or four other dishes that I never expected to find in Staunton. If I had had them in D. C. I would still react the same: they were creative and delicious. Depending on traffic Staunton may not be any longer of a drive from Reston than downtown Washington. Even if it is, the Shack is certainly worth the effort. It may take a few years for panelists to make the pilgramage but he'll win a Beard award, holding court in his shack in Staunton. Chef Boden's twitter site: His tweets can build an appetite.
Location and Rates for Tonight - Website Continuing my trip to the Midwest, I had a lovely drive from Louisville, through Eastern Kentucky, into Southwestern West Virginia, and into Virginia itself, my goal being Staunton for the night. From what I could glean, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center was going to cost me $10-20 more than anything else in town, but was by far the most convenient and best option - parking in the garage is also $10 (my hackles get raised by add-on fees in hotels, and I avoid them whenever possible), but when I got into town, I quickly saw that the streets were metered, and that the "real cost" of that $10 was going to be less - especially because The Shack was less than a five-minute walk away on flat terrain. This hotel exceeded my modest expectations, and turned out to be fairly comfortable by my (sometimes low, sometimes high, always budget-conscious) standards - it's a hotel that tries to be all things to all people. It's for tourists (note I didn't say it's touristy, which has negative connotations) - it aims for tourists seeing the heart of downtown Staunton, and even has "The Rack" by the front door. You know what I'm talking about: that metal container which holds the flyers from all the local tourist attractions. Most hotels which have one of these are "touristy," but Stonewall Jackson gets the honorific "tourism" instead. It's a large hotel with conference centers, and also caters to business guests. The beds themselves are surprisingly nice, and the only extra charge was the $10 garage fee (which is a *must* if you stay here - the hotel is high up on a hill, and the garage is way down below it: You take an elevator up from the garage, and trust me, it's your one-and-only option unless you want to do something weird like time the parking meters on the street). I was prepared to be annoyed with the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center; instead, it turned out to be the nicest hotel of my entire trip. And I repeat: It's 1 1/2 blocks away from The Shack (also just a couple blocks away from Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library), and you can easily time things to get there right when the restaurant opens, like I did, so you might not have to share a communal table. (Remember, however, that The Shack takes reservations on Friday and Saturday nights for those coming down from DC; this was a Thursday, so I simply took a 30-minute nap, and then walked over right after they opened for a wonderful dinner). Note also that our hotel threads contain a ranking system - one member has the ability to rank one hotel (BEWARE - the way Invision's software is set up, once you rank a hotel, you can change your ranking, but you can't delete it - please remember this, as I learned the hard way! I ask everyone to have actually *stayed at* (or lived near) a hotel before issuing a ranking, as well as having written a post about it; It's the only system that's fair to everybody - travelers, the hotels themselves, and our readers). Obviously, I'm not going to give Stonewall Jackson 5 Stars (that's reserved for resorts in Bali, for example), but within the city of Staunton, I suspect it's about as good as it gets - a very nice, comfortable hotel, smack dab in the middle of town, so I'm going to give this 4 Stars due to its location; I could see more like 3.5, but there are no half-stars. And don't worry: we're not going to begin using stars for restaurants; just hotels, so our readers know where to stay. If anyone has any other suggestions for how to treat the hotel forums, please send me a PM - I will read and reply to every message. Maybe we can have a few Yes-or-No questions, such as "Recommended?"
Fascinating article in the WaPo this morning on police siezures, which indirectly references The Shack. Not sure where this should be posted since it deals with the former tenant, Smoking Rooster's.