You don't have to wear a leather jacket when you go to the motorcycle-themed L.A. Cafe in Whitestown. But with the restaurant's diamond-plate decor and Harley-Davidson color scheme, you'll feel right at home if you do.
Still, don't get the wrong impression. While you might see motorcycles on the parking lot -- and you'll surely spot the actual bikes on display -- L.A. Cafe is no biker bar.
It's a stylish white-tablecloth restaurant with an appealing menu and a casual vibe.
Located in a tiny Boone County burg of about 700, L.A Cafe seems conveniently situated near the growing Anson development at I-65 and Ind. 334.
It's closer to Indianapolis than it seems, and it didn't take us long to get there once we hit the highway. And while we were in the family car, I imagined the cafe is a popular destination for warm-weather motorcycle rides.
Even though it was a wet, chilly evening when we visited, the restaurant was bright and welcoming, and we were pleased to see that we weren't the only ones dining out.
We were seated in the comfortable dining area adjacent to the bar; a separate dining room is also available.
Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, offering recommendations about wine, dinner specials and dessert.
L.A. Cafe (which is also open for lunch as well as Sunday brunch) has a smallish dinner menu of steaks, pork loin, chicken and ribs, and a few seafood options and pasta selections.
While the steaks top out at $23.95, most other entrees are in the $15 to $17 range.
The appetizer menu varied considerably in price (from $5.95 to $12.95), but it was an appealing mix of typical options, such as cheese-topped potato skins ($5.95), and less common offerings, such as breaded clam strips ($10.95).
We opted for shrimp cocktail ($11.95) and baked brie ($6.95) and were happier with the plump, tender shrimp and their nicely spiced cocktail sauce than we were with the brie.
While the fresh raspberries and candied pecan garnish were a nice touch, the cheese itself lacked the softness I expect in baked brie and was instead somewhat rubbery and hard to cut.
But the crisp baguette slices that came with the brie were delicious, especially with the sun-dried tomato compound butter that our server brought out with dinner.
Before dinner arrived, I enjoyed a flavorful hot bacon spinach salad ($5.95). The good-sized salad included red onion, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and a generous amount of crumbled bacon with a tasty sticky-sweet dressing on the side.
For an entree, we chose a 12-ounce ribeye ($20.95) with a baked potato and sauteed mushrooms as accompaniments (two sides come with each entree). The steak proved unevenly cooked, medium as ordered in some places, rare in others. And while the mushrooms were an excellent choice, the potato, unfortunately, was underdone.
Happily, the Parmesan-encrusted pork loin ($14.95) was quite good, pounded thin with just enough of a Parmesan coating to add crispness.
The pork loin, one of the specials the night we visited, was dressed up with a bit of marinara and shaved Parmesan. It was tender and flavorful -- not the typical thick-cut chop I was expecting.
As a side (and on our server's recommendation), I chose the garlic mashed potatoes, which were properly cooked and delicious, especially when topped with the remaining sun-dried tomato butter.
For dessert, we again went with our server's suggestion of the restaurant's house-made ice cream ($3.25). We enjoyed the Wild Turkey ice cream, which, while plenty good, didn't feature as much of the whiskey flavor we were hoping for. The pumpkin ice cream was tastier, with a pleasing flavor that was perfect for this time of year.
The L.A. Cafe is at 4 S. Main St., Whitestown. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 pm. Sunday. Info: (317) 769-7503; www.newlacafe.com.