Comfort food, straight from the Black Forest.

Photography by Jeffrey Gleason

It became known as the Hunger Winter. So many Germans starved during the cold months of 1946-47 that the mortality rates aren’t accurately consistent. Years of war and post-war deprivation had peaked. Limited to “death rations” of only about 1,000 calories per day, Germans traded on the black market for enough food to survive. 

Ingrid Moore was seven years old that winter, living in Karlsruhe, but she brushes aside discussion of post-war hunger. Perhaps her father, a butcher, was able to provide. Her mother, who Ingrid notes was an excellent cook, may have been adept at “making do.” Or Ingrid may be channeling her German roots, stoically minimizing hardships. But those around her say the early starvation surrounding Ingrid drove her desire to feed others. 

And feed them she does. Edelweiss German Restaurant in Staunton is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, and nobody leaves this charming log cabin restaurant hungry.

“My husband and I started coming here for camping vacations, and it reminded me of the Black Forest,” Ingrid says, her German accent still strong after 53 years in the U.S. 

She and her then-husband ran a deli in New York. In 1981 the couple bought land and relocated to where Route 11 cuts through Highway 81. They built a log cabin with Edelweiss downstairs, living quarters upstairs. A year and a half later, the couple split. Ingrid took over the restaurant, where she met her current husband, Austrian Walter Moore. Ingrid, Walter, and assorted children, nieces, and nephews run Edelweiss today.

Inside, tall beer steins and other German knick-knacks dot the warm wood shelves and walls, softened by lace curtains and embroidered tablecloths. Friendly servers squeeze past the crowded tables, balancing trays overflowing with roast pork knuckles, plump sausages, house-made sauerkraut, braised red cabbage, and rich Black Forest cake. German beer flows easily. Diners smile and nod along with the lederhosen-clad accordion player, covering everything from Johnny Cash to traditional oom-pah-pah band favorites.  

Edelweiss serves German dishes befitting the daughter and granddaughter of a butcher. Ingrid and her stepson John cut hams in-house to create a wide variety of schnitzels. Their classic Wiener schnitzel is a tender piece of pork (traditionally it’s veal), pounded thin, breaded, then fried and served with a squeeze of lemon.

Ingrid makes a face when she mentions sauerbraten. The sweet-and-sour beef is not her favorite. She created the German sampler platter after insisting that guests taste the sauerbraten before ordering it, and her sauce is a bit sweeter than commonly found in Germany. 

“My favorite dish my mother cooked is liver dumplings, or spaetzle,” Ingrid says, and then laughs. “I love it, but here, liver spaetzle didn’t go over that well.” Edelweiss does serve plain spaetzle—a buttery, twisty “dumpling” that’s more like a noodle. 

This is stick-to-your ribs food, preserved from a beloved mother’s recipes. It’s an unapologetic plate of browns, punctuated by tangy pickled cabbage, sauerkraut, and slow-cooked greens. In Germany today, chefs use lighter sauces and more fresh vegetables. But the farther south you go, closer to the Black Forest, the more likely you’ll encounter this old-school comfort food at a friendly “Gasthaus,” with shared tables, plentiful beers, and music. 

“It’s very homey. Some of my earliest memories are at Edelweiss,” says Brittany Harris, a Richmond resident who grew up in Staunton. Edelweiss was a fixture of her childhood. “I remember always celebrating Christmas there with family friends. The decorations, the fireplace, and the log cabin aspect gave us that nice winter cozy feel.” 

After 37 years, Edelweiss has become a local institution. Travelers on Highway 81 build Edelweiss into their annual road trips. Couples book reservations to commemorate their first date at Edelweiss—30 years earlier. 

And it’s poised to continue. Walter’s son John now manages Edelweiss operations and finances, freeing Ingrid to scale back. “Just because the younger generation takes over, it doesn’t mean that things will change,” John says. “It’s the same recipes, and when I’m doing the cooking, it’s the same as her doing the cooking.” 

The truth is, Ingrid is still in the kitchen most mornings, cutting a ham or mixing the stiff spaetzle dough. “That’s how you get the muscles,” she laughs. Strong enough to survive starvation, Ingrid clearly plans to keep feeding the Shenandoah Valley for years to come. 

This article originally appeared in our December 2018 issue.

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