We called Zynodoa at 5, as it was a Sunday, knowing they were open until 8 p.m.
The greeter answered, and when we asked for a reservation, she put us on hold for a moment (which was odd). She had checked with the chef (!), and he would take us right at 8. I protested because I thought they closed at 8 (they were closed monday, so this was our last chance to go since we left tuesday morning), but she said that he stated he would take us.
At this point in the story, I would like to point out that no one had any idea who we were or why we were there. They only knew that we had called, and just wanted to have dinner. They went far out of their way to accommodate us.
We took the 8 p.m. Slot, and edited until it was time to leave. We left around 7:15, since Staunton (pronounced STAN- TON) was about half an hour away.
We arrived to find a cute little town, a college town at that, SWAMPED with bicyclists. There was a large group ride that day, which had shut down the whole town. We found free parking in a nearby garage, and prepared ourselves for another part of the adventure.
We actually arrived at 7:45. I felt bad enough that they were taking us after closing time, the least we could do is be prompt or early. While we were waiting to be seated (they were SWAMPED), we read articles outside the door about Chef Mike Lund. He is highly esteemed as a chef, and has worked in several highly competitive restaurants.
We were seated right in front of the window, the opposite direction from the street. Our view was the whole restaurant, looking back into the kitchen. The ambiance there is casual and relaxed, and I flt like I could just chill out for a bit.
The waitress who greeted us (no fancy dress for them, just black), started by apologizing. They had been overwhelmed by all of the bikers in town, and only had a few dishes left to serve (none of which were Joel's). We were bummed, but we figured that we would buy some of his food and take it home to cook it ourselves anyway.
I ordered salmon and Vince ordered pork tenderloin. One of the things that fascinated me the most about the restaurant is their focus on local food from the valley. They have a chalkboard up that shows all of the ingredients they source, and the farm the ingredient is from.
Now, bear in mind that we are FOODIES. That means we are very difficult to impress with food.
The brought us freshly warmed bread with honey butter. Bear in mind that I don't eat dairy. If dairy would have tasted like this my whole life, it may have been harder to quit. There was a VERY noticeable difference between the fresh milk used for this butter, and what I was used to back in Columbus.
Our salad then arrived, and I have to say that they understand how to structure a salad. It was a perfect balance between the fresh greens, vinaigrette, fruit, and nuts on the salad.
Now, what I thought would be the best part of our meal arrived: The entrees. I absolutely could not believe how different, and fresh, the food tasted. The salmon had peas in it, and I didn't know that peas could actually taste like something! My sister in law law (not a typo, her name is Laura Lyons) had been complaining about peas the other day. I texted her because I was shocked at how good all of this tasted.
Perfect portions meant that I was stuffed! We had chatted with our waitress about where we were from, and why we were there. She had read most of Salatin's books as well. As a daring moment, I asked if we could meet the chef and thank him for our wonderful meal. I know that a lot of chefs are jerks (perhaps it's part of the restaurant environment), but I wanted to meet him anyway. The waitress edified him on the way out, saying that he is both humble and hard working.
Out came the youngest looking gentlemen I had not expected. I believe he is still a few years younger than us, and has had significant time cooking for big names. Turns out that he's from Toledo, so he knew all about The Ohio State University, High Street, and Ohio, in general. We told him about Joel, and he praised Joel for a “Meat and Beer” night they had just done together a few weeks ago.
To end the conversation, he offered us some desert. I declined, but he told Vince, “I would like to bring you something special.” A few minutes pass by, and out he walks with a piece of chocolate cake. He puts it in front of us and says “This is a cake that I make for my mother for her birthday every year. I hope you enjoy it!”.
Vince says that it was, and let me quote him, “Spectacular”. It was a chocolate torte.
He told us to stop by if we ever come through the area again, and there will be a completely different menu.
This was the first example of a restaurant I have seen that uses local food, touts it, and makes it absolutely outstanding. This showed me that it can be done!
We went back to the hotel, barely able to move we were so full!