May 18, 2024

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5 restaurants that opened in 2020, despite the pandemic

STAUNTON — Overall 2020 wasn’t the best year, but there were new and bright things that happened, like these five restaurants that opened either right before the world shutdown or during the COVID-19 pandemic. 



a slice of pizza sitting on top of a wooden table: For now, the new burger place called The River Burger Bar in Waynesboro, is doing take-out orders.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
For now, the new burger place called The River Burger Bar in Waynesboro, is doing take-out orders.

Here’s a rundown of what opened.

What local restaurant has helped feed you through the pandemic? Email reporter Laura Peters at [email protected] and let her know.



The new burger restaurant called The River Burger Bar in Waynesboro on Wayne Avenue. Here is the long bar that owner Mandi Smack put in where you can see what could be found on the bottom of the river, like rocks and other treasures.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
The new burger restaurant called The River Burger Bar in Waynesboro on Wayne Avenue. Here is the long bar that owner Mandi Smack put in where you can see what could be found on the bottom of the river, like rocks and other treasures.

The River Burger Bar

Waynesboro’s newest burger place opened in May 2020, taking up the same space as the former Jake’s Bar and Grill. In January 2020, Mandi Smack announced she would be renovating the former Jake’s Bar and Grill on Wayne Avenue. Jake’s closed in November 2019. Smack purchased the business from owner Rhonda Winfield. Smack is leasing the building and invested nearly $200,000 in renovations and more. 

Opening during COVID meant spending more money on to-go containers — an expense she hadn’t factored in when she initially started her business plan. Since she’s opened during COVID-19, the restaurant started off only offering to-go orders and some delivery. Then limited in-person dining happened later as Virginia’s reopening phases were implemented. 

This isn’t Smack’s first business venture. In 2007 she and her then-husband Taylor Smack opened Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County. In 2012, Blue Mountain Brewery expanded into the Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, then in 2014 they purchased South Street Brewery in Charlottesville. She said she has quit working at the brewery, but still owns a majority of the businesses. She and Taylor Smack are separating, but remaining business partners. 

The restaurant is located at 137 N. Wayne Ave. in Waynesboro. More information is available on the restaurant’s Facebook page.



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a group of people performing on a counter: Augusta Kitchen, located in Fishersville's Myers Corner, is a build-your-own dish with a Southern twist. Customers can order things in a bowl or on a plate with their choice of grains, greens, proteins and more.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
Augusta Kitchen, located in Fishersville’s Myers Corner, is a build-your-own dish with a Southern twist. Customers can order things in a bowl or on a plate with their choice of grains, greens, proteins and more.

Augusta Kitchen

In February, Augusta Kitchen opened in Fishersville’s Myers Corner. The restaurant is a build-your-own dish restaurant with a Southern twist. You pick your base (either grains or greens), protein (chicken, beef, pork or veggies), toppings, sauces and then “soppers” like biscuits or cornbread to soak up all the left over juices from the dish. 

Customers can order things in a bowl or on a plate both around $10. Everything is made in-house including the proteins, which are cooked either on a large smoker out back or on rotisserie inside the restaurant. 

Owner PK Kamath said the concept is similar to Chipotle, the fast-casual Tex-Mex chain, or CAVA, which serves Mediterranean-style food in a fast-casual style. With Augusta Kitchen, they have pimento cheese instead of queso or black-eyed pea style spread instead of humus. 

Kamath and his partners at F&B Restaurant Management LLC broke ground on the restaurant almost two years ago in Fishersville’s Myers Corner located at the intersection of Lifecore Drive and U.S 250. 

F&B Restaurant Management, LLC was started by Kamath, Ben Thompson and Tommy Lasley. The company runs three other restaurants in Charlottesville — Fry’s Spring Station, Ivy Provisions and Shadwell’s.

Kamath and Thompson are heading up Augusta Kitchen in Fishersville and have brought on Joe Wilkins, formerly of the Bryce Resort, as the head chef. Kamath has a background in real estate and marketing and Thompson comes from a long culinary background. Kamath starting diving into the restaurant business back in 2009.



a sign on a pole: A new Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Staunton.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
A new Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Staunton.

Mike and Mario’s

A new pizza and Italian restaurant opened at the former Fresco location on Churchville Avenue in Staunton’s west end. 

In the fall of 2019, Fresco Pizza just closed up shop. 

Now, there’s a new place — Mike and Mario’s Italian Restaurant Pizzeria. The new restaurant offers pizza, pasta, subs and more. The new spot opened up at the end of June. Renovations on the place started at the beginning of the pandemic and signage was placed outside at that time. 

For more information visit their Facebook page. The restaurant is located at 1010 Churchville Avenue. 



a sign on the side of a building: A new Mexican restaurant has opened on Churchville Avenue in Staunton called Los Marquez at the old Tastee Freez.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
A new Mexican restaurant has opened on Churchville Avenue in Staunton called Los Marquez at the old Tastee Freez.

Los Marquez 

A new Mexican restaurant opened on Churchville Avenue in Staunton called Los Marquez. Jose Marquez and his brother operate the spot, which is in an old Tastee Freez location. 

The new spot opened on Sept. 9 and Marquez said there has been a lot of repeat customers. The restaurant serves up tradition Mexican dishes along with beer, wine and mixed drinks.

The building has seen a number of different tenants over the years, but it’s been empty for a number of years after a wings place leased the space and then left shortly after that. 

In April 2013, it was turned back into Tastee Freez after seeing different names, including Braden’s Burgers and Shakes and MJ’s Burgers and Shakes. Prior to that, the restaurant had been a Tastee Freez for more than 40 years.

Marquez and his brothers own a Mexican restaurant in South Carolina, but have a nephew in Staunton and wanted to branch out their restaurant locations. They started small renovations in the space in January, but things were put on hold when COVID-19 hit.



a cluttered room: This new pizza place, Village Pizza Too!, has recently opened in Churchville and offers beer, wine and cider.


© Laura Peters/The News Leader
This new pizza place, Village Pizza Too!, has recently opened in Churchville and offers beer, wine and cider.

Village Pizza Too

Bob Rhett has had a successful pizza shop, Village Pizza, in Crimora for 11 years and he thought it was time to bring it to Churchville. 

In September he opened Village Pizza Too. He’s owned the building on Churchville Avenue in Churchville for five years, which has seen a number of different tenants like T. Bone Tooters. It had last seen Gap Pizza, but has sat empty for some time. Before opening a new spot, he had tried to put it on the market, yet again.

Customers can also order a variety of different pizzas, pizza turnovers, salads, pasta, subs and baked dishes — either for dine-in or to-go. Overall, customer response has been positive, they both said, and they’re looking forward to see how they do once COVID-19 is through. For now, they are still allowing in-person dining and carry-out, but are following all the COVID-19 guidelines put for by Virginia and the CDC.

Village Pizza Too is located at 3790 Churchville Ave. in Churchville. For more information visit its Facebook page

Laura Peters is the trending topics reporter at The News Leader. Have a news tip on local trends or businesses? Or a good feature? You can reach reporter Laura Peters (she/her) at [email protected]. Follow her @peterslaura. Subscribe to The News Leader at newsleader.com.

This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: 5 restaurants that opened in 2020, despite the pandemic

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