Written in Kait’s voice. Developed equally by Kait & Justin.
We thought we’d start out on a strong note. The strongest note actually. Our favorite restaurant of all time. Three hours of driving is so worth it every couple of months just to enjoy this gem in all of its deliciousness. It’s a tiny storefront in Staunton, Virginia called Zynodoa. With a name that reflects its provisions and location, Zynodoa is tucked inside a sweet little town in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. Local produce and the finest local meats grace the plates of this quaint restaurant with creativity and finesse. There’s just something about a restaurant that pours its money and support back into a community by buying from the local farmers that we love. And feeling like we’ve helped give back to these hard-working farmers ourselves just by eating here, well, we love that even more. Another thing that tickles our tootsies about this place is that the menu is ever changing. Normally if the menu at one of our favorite places gets changed, we get pissed, but with this place everything they do is outstanding and we know they change the menu to reflect what is in season locally.
So what’s this place like? Zynodoa is a unique place to enjoy as a date night, a nice dinner with family, or even just with a group of friends having drinks at the bar. It is most definitely not a bar scene where you’re going to find a bunch of loud twenty somethings getting rowdy. It seems to be more of a quiet, classy place to get a quirky cocktail and complain to your friends about your coworker who gets Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” stuck in your head on a daily basis. The low lighting pushes your focus to the bright feature behind the bar lighting up all kinds of different colored bottles and glasses as a cool focal feature. You’ll feel cozy and welcome from the moment you walk in and even as you’re walking back out the door onto the colorful streets of Staunton, VA.
Like I said, this is not a run of the mill snooty fine dining restaurant. It’s something different that we haven’t really experienced anywhere else. You know how some fine dining restaurants serve the teeniest portions and you are left looking at your significant other, both thinking the same thing, “we need to stop and stuff our faces with double cheeseburgers from Wendy’s on the way home.” Well this is not one of those restaurants. Though we always end up spending more than we should here, you actually can get out well fed, spending less than $75 for two people. It also doesn’t help that we always go in hungry and, as you will all soon learn, my husband can eat. And I mean “can eat” in the loosest sense of the phrase without saying “if the plate was edible he would enjoy that too”. We typically get one appetizer to share, two entrees, a dessert to share and a glass of wine each and go away full. This particular visit to Zynodoa, Justin claims to have “not eaten since breakfast” even though I definitely packed him a lunch, which he ate. I’m tellin’ you, man can eat.
Having been there numerous times, we are pretty familiar with all the wait staff, but Bill has a special place in our hearts. He waited on us the very first time we ate there, and he truly made it a special experience that kept us coming back. This most recent time we had Bill again. Since we only get to go to Zynadoa every so often, we are always in agreement that money is no factor, we get what we want!
Just as you’ll see with the food items, the drink menu makes it very difficult to choose too. This is where Bill comes in. He recommended a delightful Cab from the Paso Robles region (our favorite region for reds) for me and a local Virginia beer for Justin. Both drinks were outstanding and we were off to the races. Zynadoa always offers a tasting menu but neither one of us has ever ordered it because we almost always feel like we want more than the tasting menu offers.
(The streets of Staunton, VA this past winter)
We started by looking over the salads and starters, hoping we could at least decide on this one thing, but literally every single one of them looked delicious. We got no clearer answers looking over the main dishes. With every second that passed Justin got hungrier and hungrier and each thing on the menu looked more and more delicious. The smoked southwestern corn bisque sounded wonderful and that had my name all over it. Justin then didn’t know what to get because as you’ll come to realize HE CANNOT GET THE SAME THING AS ME…ever. Heaven forbid we both think something looks delicious and land on the same entrée. You might as well sing your own walk out song as you leave the building if that’s the case. “But baby now we’ve got bad blood…” (Told you it was in my head)
With so many options for appetizers and main dishes and so much indecision there was only one way this was going to go. Bill was going to do the choosing. After about 10 minutes of discussion, laughing, and teeter-tottering with Bill standing over our table, we finally decided on our meal. When Bill strolled over with our lettuce wraps, the smell was out of this world and they looked beautiful. Kid you not, it was some of the best pork we have ever had. There wasn’t a whole lot of filling inside the lettuce, but what was in there was so delicious. A perfect mix of salty and sweet with a great crunch not only from the lettuce but also from the fresh slaw that was on top. The pork was cooked to perfection and Justin decided he could eat about 20 of those for his meal. Unfortunately there were only 4 on the plate, so we both had two wraps each. But no worries, more food was coming!
Next Bill brought out the soup and the Andouille sausage starter. Now we’re not huge sausage fans but Bill insisted we get it. Holy crap are we glad he talked us into it. This sausage was smoky and sweet and no exaggeration, the best sausage Justin’s ever had. Again, if 10 of those had been his whole meal he would have been happy.
With two beers and a few appa-teasers in him, finally the entrees were on their way to the table. Justin had the short rib entrée that literally left him speechless, except for the occasional num num noises as he was chewing. The short ribs were cooked with the fat on for a much fuller and more complex flavor, but it was easily trimmed off on the plate mostly because these things were falling apart because they were so tender. Served over a cauliflower puree with an assortment of pickled vegetables on the plate, every taste point was hit. The rich, slightly sweet, almost nuttiness of the meat, mixed with the smokey smooth salty element of the cauliflower puree, and the tangy bitterness of the pickled veggies, combined together for one of the more complex, deep, and delicious bites he says he’s ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that happy while eating, honestly.
My meal was the juiciest, most perfectly cut NY strip steak served with white cheese potatoes gratin (which Justin also ate, go figure). I’m not usually one to get a NY strip, but Bill told us that this was the best cut of NY strips that they have ever had in and I definitely see why. The marbling was perfect and allowed for the most succulent bite every single time. Paired with the potatoes gratin and the brûléed cornbread we always order, this is one of my favorite meals to date. No photos of food this time, sorry!! Next time, I promise!
At the end of our meal, our server Bill, with whom we happen to have formed some sort of camaraderie after all of this, came up to the table and told us a “sweet” story from his childhood. And I hope he doesn’t get in trouble for this, because we found it hilarious. He told us about his tight-knit Cuban family and when he was young, his uncle had just been sentenced for something (didn’t ask) and would be going to jail soon… Did you just make a “holy tits” face wondering what kind of psycho server is this? Wait, didn’t she say this was a sweet story? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when he said that. Then the whole point of this um-how-does-this-apply-to-me story made sense. He went on to tell us that his mom hosted his uncle in their home while he was waiting to go to jail and that he literally ate everything in the house that he could get his hands on. He said it was because he was “going to prison and do you know what kind of food they serve in prison!” …Then our server, very seriously, turned to Justin and asked, “Are you going to prison sir? And would you like to take an Andouille sausage appetizer to go as a post-dessert meal?” haha I told you he could eat and this was the perfect validation we needed telling me I wasn’t crazy.
In our 24 and 26 years of life and almost two years of marriage, we’ve wet our beaks at more unique and fine dining restaurants than most other twenty-somethings and this is still our absolute favorite. We hope you’ll be able to try it one day!
Have you ever been to Zynodoa? Is there a restaurant in your community that you love as much as we love Zynodoa? Tell us about it!
Follow us on Pinterest by clicking here!