FOOD- THE DISH- Bistro birthday: Bryers Street turns 10, Rolling Cones rock!

"I wanted to give the locals a place to call their own," says owner Jeff Ramsey of Staunton's Byers Street Bistro, which just turns 10!

The Byers Street Bistro in the Wharf district of downtown Staunton, known simply as "The Bistro," is celebrating its 10th anniversary–no small task these days. Opened by owner Jeff Ramsey in 1999, who wanted to make it a Cheers-like "everybody knows your name" kind of place, it appears he has done just that. 

"I wanted to give the locals a place to call their own," says Ramsey. "Over the years, the Bistro has continued to evolve, but those involved haven't lost sight of its original objective. It's the same great informal place that serves well-priced, down-to earth food in a modest setting." 

In the last year, the Bistro hired a new chef, Hans Hoffman, who has been focusing on "from scratch" cooking. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, Hoffman characterizes his style as "southern style cooking with a twist" and new menu additions include include shrimp and risotto, pecan-encrusted chicken, roasted garlic and rosemary meatloaf, and slow-roasted pork chops, to name just a few. 

Ramsey says he's also getting involved in supporting local artists. He's commissioned local photographer Nathan Beck and local artist Mauricio Esperon to display their work in the dining room, and will feature the work of other artists in the future. And, of course, continues to support local musicians with live music Thursday through Saturday nights. 

"Now that the Bistro is turning ten, we felt it was time to freshen things up a bit and have a little fun in the process," says general manager Giovanni Cannata, known to locals simply as "Gio," who has been there from the beginning.

"I think the laid-back atmosphere makes the Bistro the best place in town," says regular Brad Bays. "I am always greeted with some great conversation, and everyone really does know my name." 

Rolling Cones come to town

On Saturday, March 28, five adventurous 20-somethings will be at Splendora's Gelato on the Downtown Mall to raise money and awareness for a trip they plan to make from London to Mongolia... in an ice cream truck! 

It appears the crazy kids are going to participate in the Mongol Rally this summer, a 10,000-mile automobile event that starts in London July 18 and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Last year, over 200 teams entered. 

"Our team, The Rolling Cones, has opted to make this very long journey in an ice cream truck to raise money for Mercy Corps, a group which does relief work in many of the countries along our route," explains Mythili Rao, 25, a former Hook intern who now works for CNN in New York. 

The team includes Rao (who admits she'll only go as far as Istanbul) UVA alum Lan Quynh Le, 25; team captain Alex Neuhausen, 25; mechanic Andrew Ritz, 28, and financial analyst Joe Pyrek, 26.

"This coming weekend, we will be down in Charlottesville where the kind owners of Splendora's have agreed to let us guest scoop on Saturday afternoon," says Rao."

"For me, this trip is about going to countries that I would otherwise never consider or have the opportunity to travel to alone," says Quynh Le. "We've been warned about bandits, border guards, medical emergencies, but I can't pass on the opportunity for an adventure of this size."

As for the ice cream truck idea, Quynh Le says they just thought of it as a novelty that would get them plenty of attention as they traveled across Europe and Asia for five weeks.

"Also, it might be a deterrent against bandits," says Quynh Le, "because who would consider holding up an ice cream truck?"

L'étoile now serving up brunch

Mark Gresge, chef/owner of l'étoile on West Main, tells Dish that they are now hosting brunch on Sundays from 11am to 3pm. There'll be Bloody Mary's and blood orange mimosas, sticky buns, veal sweetbreads and eggs, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, steak and eggs, french toast, quiche, and salads as well, all made with seasonal ingredients when Gresge says he can get them. 

Farmer/chef duo at Staunton Grocery

The Staunton Grocery in Staunton steps up its local food focus with a special tasting menu that focuses solely on the produce of one of our local farms each month.  This weekend, chef Ian Boden plans to present last months' featured producer, Baker's Farms, on March 26, 27, and 28.

Boden has created a special $65 five-course tasting menu that features the heritage breed pork raised at Baker Farms in each of the courses, including dessert. This menu will be offered in addition to their regular menu and proprietor Steve Baker will be on hand Thursday, March 26 to answer any questions about his Shenandoah County farm.