The La Tour dining room in all of its swanky seventies glory. (Image: eBay)
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Many a couple enjoyed a romantic dinner downtown on the holiday of love. Wonder what options you might have had in years past? In the Seventies, you had several options for skyscraper dining, including The Eagles Nest atop the Hyatt Regency and the Carousel overlooking Monument Circle in the Hilton. Probably the most notable locale for budding lovers was La Tour, perched high above the Indiana National Bank Building. The French restaurant was a go-to destination for nearly two decades.
The opening of the Indiana National Bank Building in 1970 symbolized that Indianapolis was a city on the grow! The marble and glass tower rose 37 stories above street life, taller than any building in the state. On the 35th floor stood the flagship La Tour restaurant. Building management promised French cuisine served until 1:30 a.m., in a dining room capable of seating over 140 people, all with a spectacular view. The restaurant proved a hit, serving numerous gourmet luncheons and hosting social events.
Although unbeknownst to diners at the time, one of the first celebrity chefs took over the kitchen in 1973. Austrian Wolfgang Puck was one of three young chefs brought in from abroad. Puck elected to come to Indianapolis with the belief that it would be similar to Monaco, due to the racing heritage the cities shared. Upon arrival, he was scoffed at and told people in Indiana only eat hamburgers and hotdogs! Wolfgang did tough things out for a year and established himself as the restaurant’s best line cook. He was quickly off to bigger and better things, however, leaving Indy for Los Angeles to create the gourmet pizza craze.
By 1987, the restaurant was in for a change. Marriott Corporation took over the food service operations for Indiana National Bank. A full-scale renovation of the restaurant began, and French chef Allain Biller was brought in from Chicago to oversee the kitchen. This refresh proved unsuccessful, as tastes were already changing. Diners no longer sought out the formal atmosphere restaurants that La Tour or the venerable King Cole offered. The restaurant closed in 1989 and was replaced with the more casual Pennsylvania Street Bar and Grill. In 1992, Indiana National Bank was acquired by the National Bank of Detroit. The building suffered high vacancy rates as the local work force dwindled. Today Taft Law occupies the former space of La Tour, and there is no evidence that a restaurant ever existed on the 35th floor.
Indianapolis News, January 20th, 1970
Indianapolis Star, October 23rd, 1987
Orange Coast Magazine, March 1994
Over the years — for reasons never clear to me — I systematically bought, converted, restored, or just plain “hung on to…” items primarily from terminally ill hotels, bars, restaurants, or landmarks–the big brass elevator from the old elegant Claypool Hotel is now a cocktail table (on a stairway newel post), plus I have service plates, medieval shield and too much to list from Claypool, Lincoln, Severin, Atkinson….but my biggest buy (now for sale intact original condition) are 6 of the dining room chairs from LaTour — cut velvet upholstery perfect. It was fun…but now I am putting my house for sale and where do I move a full-sized wooden telephone booth from the old Claypool bar, complete with dime payphone? Gimme a call on it…
I ate at the Teller’s Cage which was in the LA Tour space in the late 1990’s when I was working at the Indiana State Museum. The view was fantastic. The food was more of a regular lunch fare.
I was in my closet looking for a old porcelain dolls when I came upon a menu
It was in a big red book with a swan on the cover and LA TOUR under the swan.
Does anyone know the pizzeria located a the Washington Square Mall in the 70′ and 80’s? I think it was a national chain. Also I am looking for the name of a small family Italian restaurant that was located at 71st Street and Binford Blvd (Hwy 37) in the 70’s
Is that the Italian restaurant that was just down from what became/was G.T. South’s restaurant ?- in the same small strip (SW quadrant of 71st & Binford) ?
I’ve got the name on the tip of my tongue – ate there numerous times – excellent small Italian restaurant, reminding me of those I knew where I grew up in Chicago.
Help me with a clue or hint, …was it, something …maggios ? …Amazing spaghetti & meatballs, as I recall.
Any ‘help’ might help me think of it’s name.
I proposed to my wife at La Tour in 1985. We were both impressed when we saw that my last name was embossed in gold on the black matchbook at our table.