Lunch in Ladora, Iowa
Don and I heard about the bank while on a midwest road trip last fall. Some fellow travelers insisted, "If you're traveling down Highway 6, you should definitely stop for lunch!"
1920 "Jewel Box" Style Bank
We had already planned on taking that route to Grinnell, so I'm guessing we would have noticed the fine building with bold Doric columns. There's little else to see in the town of less than 300. But we might not have noticed that the bank had turned into a bistro. I'm so glad we were tipped off!
The owner Jim, welcomed us through the glass from the kitchen, near the vault. He invited us to take a seat anywhere. The cozy nook with cushy art deco seating was tempting.
Words of Wisdom
Small Town Dining?
A Little History
Jim told us he had been working as the chef, when he and his wife, Holly recently had the opportunity to purchase the business. He talked about the odd history of the building that had been used as Ladora Savings Bank, for only 11 years.
Then, Jim brought us the menu and a yummy assortment of nuts, which made us thirsty for a couple of beers on tap. We sipped and studied the small plate choices... Stromboli, Sausage en Croute, Duck Rillette? It was so odd to have these options in a tiny Iowa town. We finally decided on a platter of crab cake sliders and they were amazing.
As we sat in what was once a grand lobby, we read the words at the top of the four marble walls. We pondered these serious thoughts of diligence, integrity, frugality and wealth and tried to imagine the local farmers banking here nearly 100 years ago.
The Depression hit and the building became a "flop house" for truckers and a Red Cross office, among many things. Jim pointed to a nearby counter and chuckled about how the thick glass didn't even break when a hammer fell from a high ladder during renovation. This classic revival structure was obviously built to last!
A Tour with Holly
Paying at the Teller Cage
Holly arrived as we were finishing lunch. She offered to take us upstairs to see a meeting room and to peek at the Executive Washroom through the glass panel. I had been a little concerned earlier when I noticed the "see-through" door to the Ladies Room. Evidently these 2 were "display only" bathrooms. The bistro was throwing a little spotlight on one of the bank's exciting features in 1920. A bank with restrooms was somewhat of a novelty, I guess.
Jim was happy to settle our bill at the table, but I sort of insisted Don go up to the barred teller window to pay up! I wanted to have the full bank experience!
Heading on Down Highway 6!
The famous "Jewel Box" bank, designed by Louis Sullivan was as impressive as I remembered. Too bad it's still a bank, though. I wish I could take that bank and combine it with my favorite childhood food joint in Grinnell. Then I could sit beside a hefty vault door, while enjoying a frosty mug of A &W root-beer!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.