Staunton probably runs second only to Charlottesville in restaurants per capita, and it keeps adding more as the town's renaissance continues. In fact, there are so many that I wonder if the local residents know how to cook for themselves.

Staunton Station, the town's old railway depot on Middlebrook Avenue between Augusta and Lewis streets in the Wharf District, is now a dining/entertainment complex. The train station is home to the family-oriented Depot Grille (tel. 540/885-7332). Nearby, Byers Street Bistro (tel. 540/887-8100) is a lively restaurant-bar with warm-weather outdoor tables fronting a municipal parking lot on Byers Street at Central Avenue. All are moderately priced.

A nearby pub I like for both food and ambience is Mill Street Grill, 1 Mill St. (tel. 540/886-0656), south of Johnson Street. Occupying the basement of the old White Star mill, which produced Melrose flour from 1890 to 1963, it offers barbecue ribs, steaks, prime rib, and seafood as well as vegetarian dishes. Heavy beams and backlit stained-glass windows portraying chefs at work help make it warm and cozy.

Staunton's top restaurants are along Beverly Street, the main drag, where you'll also fine excellent pies at Shenandoah Pizza (tel. 540/213-0008) and rich, smooth homemade ice cream at The Split Banana (tel. 540/908-2962).

The 1950s Live -- The 1950s are still very much alive at Wright's Dairy Rite, 346 Greenville Ave. (U.S. 11), a block south of Richmond Road (tel. 540/886-0435), a classic drive-in that has had carhop service since it opened in 1952. Even if you dine inside this brick building or outside on the patio, you must lift a phone to place your order, and then wait for it to be delivered to your leatherette booth. Nothing here costs more than $8. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Open Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 11pm (until 9 and 10pm, respectively, during winter).

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