NEWS

Off the Map: Ladora restaurant offers bistro dining in a bank

The Ladora Bank Bistro has maintained much of the original ornamentation of the original bank including vault and tellers windows. The bank opened in 1920 and closed in 1931 during the Great Depression. Over the years the building was used as a civil defense shelter, polling station, flop house, Red Cross office, antique store, attorney's office and drapery business. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The Ladora Bank Bistro has maintained much of the original ornamentation of the original bank including vault and tellers windows. The bank opened in 1920 and closed in 1931 during the Great Depression. Over the years the building was used as a civil defense shelter, polling station, flop house, Red Cross office, antique store, attorney's office and drapery business. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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LADORA — Right off Highway 6 sits a towering historic bank building. Once the Ladora Savings Bank, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building now is home to a restaurant, the Ladora Bank Bistro.

The teller windows frame up the cozy bar area and the vault has been converted to the wine and beer celler. Patrons can stop in Thursday through Sunday to sample delicacies from the mostly “small plate” menu.

“We encourage people to order several things and pass them around the table,” said owner and chef Jim Vido. “We want food to be the centerpiece of conversation.”

He noted that the menu tends to change with the seasons as well. “I try to offer things you don’t find everywhere else,” he said.

The bank was built in 1920 and operated as such until 1931, when the Great Depression led it to close its doors.

In the years after the bank closed, the building served as a flop house for truckers, a polling station, a civil defense shelter, a drapery business, a law office and an antique store. The building sat empty for several decades before being discovered by Cedar Rapids resident Dimitri Makedonsky, who was riding by on his motorcycle. Makedonsky purchased it in 2004.

After renovations to the building, the Ladora Bank Bistro opened in 2008. Vido was invited to join Makedonsky in the business in January 2014 and immediately fell in love with it.

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“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved,” Vido said, noting that he’d been working at Phat Daddy’s in Cedar Rapids at the time. “I always wanted to have a little place like this.”

Vido took over ownership last May and has had fun changing up the menu — little by little — since.

“I get bored in the kitchen pretty quickly,” he said. “So I switch up the menu. People are often surprised to find these foods on a menu in a small town in Iowa.”

Vido said the duck rillette and the wild mushroom empanadas are his two favorite items on the menu right now.

While the building looks significant from the outside, the restaurant inside is quite intimate.

“This is a small operation,” said Vido. “People come here when they want to get away.”

Vido noted that the kitchen is very small, due in large part to not wanting to do major structural changes to the building during renovations.

“I’ve met a lot of people who had family members bank here,” he said, noting the importance of the historic structure.

Vido is proud to offer a pretty extensive beer collection — about 60 varieties, with six on tap — and wine selection as well. “People often stop back in to try new things,” he said.

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Vido is a graduate of the culinary and baking program at Kirkwood Community College. The Cleveland native now lives in Victor and said he feels he has found a great niche.

“This place is very cool at night with our teller box lights on and the light reflections on the marble walls,” he said. “I usually have some ’40s music playing. When guests call in a reservation for a table it is theirs for the night. We just want people to feel comfortable and enjoy.”

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