By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
Step through the doors of this historic 88-year-old former Sears & Roebuck mail-order house and expect to be impressed. First, what use to be a home is now a restaurant - La's Bistro. Second, it is highly rated. Yet there is nothing pretentious or elaborate about it - just a comfortable, cozy environment in which to escape the outside world and indulge the inner senses.
Whether you enter through the front door into the main dining room or from the garden patio, the most palpable feature of this two-story house (circa 1924) is its inherent charm. There is original wood flooring throughout, a steep staircase that leads to the second floor, a central fireplace, and three separate dining areas, each with its own ambient decor and view to the outdoors.
Located on West Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach, La's Bistro is situated along the well-traveled route between Ormond's high-rise bridge and Yonge Street (U.S. 1). Since its founding, La's has been a delightful open secret for those looking for the best combination of food, service and atmosphere.
In July 2010, however, the property changed hands. The new owners, Casey Jones and Carlos Soldevilla, wanted to retain the familiar name. "Everyone knows the name," Mr. Soldevilla said. "It has an established clientele - it has maintained a clientele base."
The new team also brought a lot of experience to the business.
"I've been working since I was 11 years old," Mr. Soldevilla said. In fact, his first job was at his father's pizzeria in Edgewater. He later worked at both the New Smyrna Yacht Club and the former Skyline Restaurant in New Smyrna. As a chef, and now a restaurateur, Mr. Soldevilla wears a lot of different hats, including, as he put it, "being the second person in the kitchen," along with the resident chef, David Lani.
When my guest and I arrived on a recent Friday evening, we were immediately greeted by co-owner, Casey Jones, who cheerfully escorted us to a table next to the fireplace. Not long after, Mr. Soldevilla came to our table and introduced himself. He then described some menu items that he had personally selected for us to try. "Everything is made fresh to order," he assured us. That being said, we were ready to begin.
Our gustatory journey started with a glass of wine -- an Argentine malbec for my guest and a mellow chardonnay for myself. Not long after, our server, Jeannie Martin, brought us not one, but two appetizers: Zesty Grilled Shrimp, with a spicy homemade remoulade sauce; and the newest dish at La's - hot Spinach-Artichoke Fonduta, a thick and creamy dip with fresh spinach and chunks of artichoke, surrounded by toast bites.
Next on tap came a plate of homemade yeast rolls with honey-butter, followed by two different versions of La's Signature Salads: Mixed greens with cranberries, walnuts and feta cheese; and mixed greens with artichoke, pine nuts and tomatoes. Each came with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
For the grand entree: New York Strip Steak crusted with black peppercorns/au poivre sauce, grilled to perfection; and Wahoo, a deep-sea fish, baked, then topped with a savory honey-citrus sauce. Each was accompanied by a lightly sauteed mix of summer squash and zucchini, plus garnishes - and of course both presentations were simply delicious.
Just when my guest and I thought we were full, we heard, "For dessert, we have ..." So many irresistible choices - but we decided on hot homemade bread pudding, plus a double chocolate cake with espresso coffee bits mixed with white chocolate, cranberries and blueberries.
Throughout our meal, both owners were attentive to our needs, even delivering some of the beautifully-prepared dishes themselves. "We take our food, our wine, our craft very seriously," Mr. Soldevilla said. "We build our recipes to pair with other food." Also, "Our personality is very casual. We wanted to complement that identity."
For diners looking for the best in casual elegance, La's Bistro is a "must-visit." Its taste-tempting menu starts with breakfast, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and offers eggs benedict (crab or spinach), omelets, pancakes, French toast and more. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and as always, there is plenty to choose from. The menu ranges from appetizers to wraps and quesadillas, to daily specials, to a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches.
When it comes to dinner, there is fare enough for everyone: "Bistro" crab cakes, herb salmon, citrus shrimp platter, pork medallions, veal scaloppini, filet mignon, and other chef-inspired creations. Serving hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
But wait! La's also offers an early-bird menu from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., which also includes a free wine or beer. Or how about brunch? La's is open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
La's Bistro is at 63 W. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach.
Reservations accepted: (386) 676-5181 or www.LaBistro.com.