LaDonna's: Manhattan design in small-town California

Folks looking for LaDonna’s, the newest restaurant in Atascadero, can recognize the patio from down the block, a colorful canopy made of umbrellas brightens up the corner of El Camino and Entrada classic cocktails. (Photo courtesy of LaDonna’s and of White and Ezell by Camas Frank)

In what locals who’ve stopped in since a packed Aug. 17 opening weekend have dubbed, “a beautiful addition to Atascadero,” LaDonna’s has brought modern design and a unique menu to 6195 El Camino Real.

A short walk from City Hall frequent guests include both the City’s sitting mayor and the mayor-elect, and City Manager Rachel Rickard gave the establishment some love in a report to Council celebrating new development in town.

Owners LaDonna White and Aaron Ezell have come a long way since, forming their plan to open a restaurant over drinks on their first date nearly a year ago.

And it wasn’t vanity on White’s part that gave the restaurant its moniker. She blushes as she relays the story.

Ezell, who also works as a bartender for the establishment, insisted he’d found the right name one evening several weeks into planning, convincing her to name the place after their head chef and his fiancé.

“It just fits, it’s the perfect name for what we’re doing and LaDonna is a classy name, it means ‘The Lady’ in Spanish,” he notes, adding that the place really is her brainchild.

With a background in restaurant design in Manhattan before she came back to the Central Coast to attend culinary school and get a viticulture degree at Cal Poly, White said she looked around Atascadero and tried to find what was missing in menu selections.

“It feels like the whole city has stopped by at some point,” she said, adding that she also got some surprises at what’s turned out to be the most popular, “lobster ravioli turned out to be a huge hit last weekend.”

Other unique offerings include a kind of year-round Thanksgiving on a plate, with turkey, cream of mushroom, asparagus, walnuts, and cranberry, or “all the flavors of the holidays,” White said.

Despite the chic aesthetic, the restaurant is neither a wine bar or a nightclub, although they do serve a finely tuned collection of local wines, including a 20-year-old Nichol’s Zinfandel and a selection from Ruby Cellars next door, and there’s a space customers have dubbed “the VIP Room.”

Recent civic gatherings have helped get people in the door, who may not have noticed that all the hard work of building a restaurant from scratch in the former Century 21 office had wrapped up.

The restaurant opened on the city’s Cruise Night, drawing in the crowd turned out to see restored automobiles, and Ezell’s cocktails, specifically margarita’s gained some notoriety during Colony Days event downtown.

As the nearby downtown development project La Plaza gets ready to break ground officially,  Ezell says they were just lucky to have found the spot open, not realizing they would be on a soon-to-be very active corner, “that didn’t enter into it but we’re very excited to be part of the community. It’s really been an adventure.”

Folks looking for the newest restaurant in town can recognize the patio from down the block, a colorful canopy made of umbrellas brightens up the corner of El Camino and Entrada, an idea suggested by White’s teenage children.

Since it’s only LaDonna in the kitchen herself at the moment groups are advised to seek dinner reservations. Current hours are 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Find their current hours online at, ladonnas.business.site, or the more traditional web address on their new website: www.ladonnasrestaurant.com.

Folks looking for LaDonna’s, the newest restaurant in Atascadero, can recognize the patio from down the block, a colorful canopy made of umbrellas brightens up the corner of El Camino and Entrada classic cocktails. (Photo courtesy of LaDonna’s and of White and Ezell by Camas Frank)


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