DINING: In Whitestown, a culinary wonder

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Dining - A&E

Our waiter kept referring to the kitchen boss as “Chef.” “This evening, Chef has prepared … .” That sort of thing. And he described each ingredient in every dish in loving detail, making sure to highlight the fact that the restaurant uses locally raised pork, beef and poultry.

Before you combine the above description with the photo, below, and form a picture in your head of some posh center-city eatery, I should point out that our waiter was sporting jeans and a T-shirt. There was a large group of leather-clad bikers on the patio (there are cycles mounted on the walls in the bar area). And the meal in question was happening just steps from a desolate intersection in downtown Whitestown.

Examples abound of quality restaurants outside of urban areas. But that doesn’t lessen the pleasure when I find one that exceeds expectations. Nor does it diminish my desire to encourage others to make the effort to patronize them.

The aforementioned chef at L.A. Café (4 S. Main St., Whitestown, 769-7503) is Reid Craig, from Peterson’s and Eddie Merlot’s. He’s co-owner, with Deano Vino Wilson, of Fountain Square’s Deano’s Vino. And, on our visit, the duo was firing on all cylinders, starting with an impeccable Shrimp Cocktail Martini ($9.95) featuring a quartet of plump monsters in an attention-getting-but-not-overwhelming sauce garnished with zucchini strings.

The dressed up flank steak highlights a creative menu at L.A. Café in downtown Whitestown. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

A cup of French Onion Soup ($2 with entrée) may initially leave purists balking thanks to its grated rather than solid cheese topping. But the subtle taste proved as unexpected as its look.

L.A. Café, in its previous incarnations, was best known as a place for steaks. The new version was equally adept, accenting its Marinated Flank Steak ($18.95) with a parmesan crust and topping it with red and green peppers. The result was greater than the sum of its parts. An Open Face Pulled Pork ($9.95) barely earned its way onto the sandwich menu, not because it lacked quality (it was outstanding), but because it consisted of a mound of Makers Mark-sauced shredded pork atop, rather than encased in, thick bread. “Sandwiches” come with a side and our wise-in-hindsight choice was fresh Sauteed Green Beans.

Desserts are house-made, so we gave into temptation with a merely good Crème Brulée ($5.95) and a Triple Delight Martini ($5.95). The creamy latter was a mix of mousses that was intoxicating. Thank you, Chef. Whitestown is now a restaurant destination.•

—Lou Harry


Last in our month-long series of review of reborn cafes.



  • Still Open?
    Is this restaurant open? A friend had reservations for 8 people on Saturday, March 13, 2010. They arrived at 7 pm, and there was a sign on the door that simply said Closed. What gives?
  • Deano
    This is Deano chefs Business partner, and Chef said that those are plantains, and to shave them with a knife and thinnly slice them and then deep fry or you can pan fry them. The next step season them and add them to the skewer, the shrimp should take no longer than 3-4 minutes each side. Thank you for the question and I hope this helps you out.
  • Sweet potatoes
    My husband and I had the pleasure of dineing at LaCafe a few weeks ago and we had the best meal. Could you tell me how you fix the sweet potatoes that are served with the shrimp skeur?
    • Your new menu is inspired!
    • I myself never heard of The L.A.Cafe until last week when my friend Gary insisted on eating there after a looong 18 holes of what he considers golf. We pull up to this little building surrounded by motorcycles in this little town that I've never heard of thinking that I was going to regret this experience only to discover a little gem of a restaurant. We sat at the bar and enjoyed one of the best shrimp cocktails and a couple of martinis. Who would've thunk? Now a week and a half later I'm reading about this joint online, So much for my new best kept secret.
      I'll definitly see you soon.
    • Yes Tina we have high chairs and we have a complete non smoking restaurant. Bar side 21 and over, and dinning side for children and families. We look forward to your visit, and hope to see you soon.
      Cheers Deano!
    • I have dined at LA Cafe 3 times since they opened. Everything I have had has been out of this world. The ribeye was one of the very best I ever had and the french onion soup is awesome.
    • Is the restaurant kid-friendly? Do they allow kids or have a kids menu? I love a good dining experience but we often have to bring our 10-year-old with us.
      • My wife and I had just eaten here after we read the review today. I had the Pork chop bone in with Makers BBQ Sauce and green bean side. I was plesently suprised on how tasty this dinner was and I will be back more to enjoy the rest of the menu. My wife June had the 6 oz filet which melted in her mouth as she described it to me. She also sharred the side of green beans and stated that it was the best veggie side she has had in a while. We are not your normal couple we love to support smaller local business and these folks don't have to worry, we will be back plenty more times..
        Thank you L.A. Cafe'
        Dave and June

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