Looking for some good food and a great dining atmosphere in Staunton, Virginia? Let me recommend The Depot Grille which is actually located in the Civil War era train station right next to the tracks in the downtown, historic district of the city.
In 1854 the railroad tracks came to Staunton – the seat of Augusta County – linking this Shenandoah Valley town to the rest of the state’s modern transportation network. Railroads were important to the Valley since it offered another way for farmers to move their harvested crops or livestock to outer markets. In Staunton, the advent of the trains launched the town from a small village to the major commerce center in the middle of the Valley region. A commercial district grew around the station and a large warehouse that reached the cars by gangplanks. Because of these gangplanks, the station area became known as “The Wharf”, even though Staunton is far from the seaside. The freight depot structure where the restaurant is located dates back to around 1860.
During the Civil War, Staunton became a major center for transportation, logistics, regional defense, and a hospital network for the Confederacy. Many Union campaigns aimed for the city and railroad in their attack objectives. At the train station, good-byes were said, wounded soldiers brought home, supplies sent to the armies, and logistical problems solved. In June 1864, Union General David Hunter arrived in Staunton and during the short occupation, the Yankees destroyed the station and wrecked some of the tracks. The Confederates regained the town, only to have it reoccupied in the autumn of 1864 and chance hands again. In March 1865, Union General Sheridan took the town on last time, and Staunton’s Confederate history ended and morphed into memory history.
Around the turn of the century, a railroad accident destroyed Staunton’s main train station which was rebuilt in 1902 and used until the 1960’s by the Cheasapeake & Ohio Railroad. Though abandoned, Staunton’s historic train station recovered with the aid of the Historic Staunton Foundation and now the location is preserved and used for dining and retail in the downtown district.
Inside The Depot Grille, you’ll find a wealth of local history housed on this historic location with Civil War echoes. The large bar originally came from from a turn-of-the-century hotel, and the seating arrangements in the main dining room feature old pews rescued from a local church.
The food is amazing and affordable! The first time I went to The Depot Grille I was travelling on my own during a research trip and they graciously accommodated my shy request for a “table for one for dinner” without any awkward looks that I’d been getting at other places. That evening I sampled a beef medallion skillet dinner. (Now, I’m hungry just thinking about it!) After the good service, wonderful cuisine, and historic atmosphere, The Depot Grille was added to my “favorite restaurants in Virginia list.” Earlier this spring when I took my mom to the Shenandoah Valley, I told her we had go to this restaurant in Staunton. I think she was a little skeptical, but Sunday brunch at the Depot made her a fan, too.
If you dine at the Depot, be sure to check-out the historic structure and walk to the track’s platform. Although the main station has been rebuilt since the Civil War, you can still remember the troops and civilians who passed along here during the conflict.
If you have time in town, pick up a Staunton historic tour brochure at the Augusta County Historical Society, the visitor center, or local library. Many buildings in town date back to the Civil War era. Located several miles outside town, Frontier Culture Museum offers wonderful history about the Valley’s architecture styles and early settlers through an interactive, outdoor museum.
Visit The Depot Grille’s website for dining hours and current menu selections.
The Depot Grille – 42 Middlebrook Ave., Staunton, VA 24401