The Whitehouse Inn is a charming destination; a stretch of lawn and artistic floral plantings lead to the log-cabinish, steel-roofed building. It's particularly inviting given that the approach to most restaurants is from strip-mall parking lot to a concrete facade.
Inside, it's homey: the walls, wainscoted and knotty-pined, are hung with scores of photos of U.S. presidents.
Who wouldn't play off the Whitehouse town name with patriotica? In the bar area, one of three dining rooms, is a huge color photo of the White House adorned by blooming cherry trees. Tableware is red, white, and blue, and the rest rooms are tagged Presidents and First Ladies (a tradition that shows little sign of changing).
This is a meat house unfettered by the latest trend, where prime rib rules (from $12.99 for an 8-ounce cut to $37.99 for a 36-ounce-slab), along with steak, chicken, and six typical seafood items. There are burgers, sandwiches, and salads. The menu is peppered with adjectives such as smothered, blackened, deep fried, grilled, sauteed, and cheese-topped everything.
Knowing what we do about arteries and blood flow, I view places like the Whitehouse Inn as a guilty pleasure; a condiment to be enjoyed sparingly.
Some of our former presidents would disagree. Bill Clinton, during his eight years in the Oval Office when his appetites roamed free, would have loved the fare. So too William Taft; a stress-eater who weighed 335 pounds when he left office in 1913. But Thomas Jefferson, not so much. "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that not as an aliment, so much as a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet," he wrote to a physician in 1819.
I'm with Jefferson on proportionality, but love good meat occasionally, and had an excellent 12-ounce prime rib ($21.99), smothered with mozzarella cheese, topped with onions and mushrooms. In retrospect, I'd eliminate the cheese (why obfuscate meat this good?) and request the edges be blackened.
The latest edition of the Fronk Family Prime Time News -- the in-house newsletter from the owners -- reports that price hikes may loom because they're paying nearly $2 more per pound than usual for prime rib. Steaks range from $12.99 to $23.99 for an 8-ounce filet mignon.
The crab cakes ($15.99) are recommended: two large patties with a winsome light crust, accented by a mildly spicy caper sauce.
Dinners come with large salads or soup, rolls, and a side.
We threw down the gauntlet for the chef one night: what could he concoct for the vegan at our table? The result was so good we called the young chef (who needed an explanation of what a vegan diet is -- no meat, seafood, dairy, eggs) out of the kitchen for an attaboy. A mound of pureed sweet potatoes were buttressed with grilled pineapple slices, crested with toasted almonds and granola, and dappled with bits of roasted red and green peppers ($12.99). President Clinton, by the way, became a vegan after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, hoping that a plant-based diet with very little oil will improve his damaged blood vessels.
We'd heard the margaritas ($4.75) were delicious so we sampled a regular and a raspberry. They were large and fruity; perfectly fine but in retrospect, too bold for the dishes we'd ordered (our bad). There are 12 imported and 10 domestic beers.
Noise levels are high when the main room is busy.
There's a separate menu for lunch. A reuben sandwich ($7.49) was a little greasy but OK. Blackened chicken salad ($8.49) had plenty of moist fowl, scrumptiously blackened on a well-rounded bed of greens. My guest can't eat dairy or gluten (wheat, rye, barley), and hoped for a bowl of soup, but the chef reported that all contained gluten. Most of the 13 appetizers are cheesy and/or deep-fried. We ordered the home-made chips ($5.99) without the melted bleu and Monterey Jack cheeses; warm and sprinkled with blackened seasoning, they were a treat, especially the crunchy ones.
The Fronks have owned the place for 15 years, and according to their Prime Time News, have renovated bathrooms and the kitchen. The newish stone patio is lovely and has a heater for cool weather but no chilled misters to take the edge off the heat.
Note: Tuesdays are Mexican menu night when margaritas are $3.75; Thursdays are Italian fare, and there's a Sunday brunch from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ($10.99 for adults; $5.99 for kids).
The menu is not online, but staff says that one is in the works.
Address: 10835 Waterville St., Whitehouse
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: thewhitehouseinn.net
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.