LIKE A GOOD movie trailer, the buildup to The Prewitt’s November grand opening really pulled us in. It promised innovative cuisine, live entertainment, an elegant setting with a rich backstory, and a glint of Old Hollywood glamour. In a world … where new, under-resourced restaurants have started thinking small and minimalistic, this golden oldie was going big-budget, casting Plainfield’s 96-year-old movie palace in the lead.
It’s a late-career comeback for the old landmark. The two-story Spanish-style structure began life as Prewitt’s Motor Sales, peddling Goodrich tires along the National Road. It became a movie theater in the 1920s, went by a few different names, and had sat unused for years when local buyer Keller Huff Restaurant Group purchased it in 2021 with a plan to convert it to a fine-dining venue. According to executive chef Ricky Hatfield, it had seen better days. “There were dirt floors, no drywall, and parts of the building were in total disarray from sitting vacant,” says the prolific chef who was working at Bottleworks Hotel (and previously Ellison Brewing Co., Skyline Club, CharBlue, and Peterson’s) before taking on The Prewitt’s lineup of elevated quirkiness.
The transformation of the building (and the one next door, a former First National Bank built in 1909 that owners Doug Huff and Patrick Keller connected and incorporated into the redesign) took nearly two-and-a-half years to complete. The end result is grand and impressive, the dining room framed in brick and a soaring, blacked-out ceiling. Glazed tilework decorates the lobby wall, which leads to a separate bar, the perfect cozy spot to nurse a Smoke on the Water cocktail. But with tables arranged on a tiered floor, facing a stage that replaced the original movie screen, there’s no denying this was once a movie theater—a small-town haunt that locals nicknamed the Sticky Foot. “People spilled popcorn and dropped their gum on the floor,” Hatfield says.
The menu has plenty of drama as well. Starters include crispy pork belly with compressed soy-cured pineapple, oysters on the half shell alongside housemade mignonette and hot sauce fermented on-site, and an inspired short rib eggroll served with house kimchi and ringed in wasabi aioli and furikake sprinkles. The “Main Features” range from a roast chicken with ranch dust, bacon jam, and PBR beer cheese fondue to a noble brown sugar–brined pork porterhouse.
There’s also a delicate plank of Ora King salmon served on a bed of roasted kale with a tangy swoosh of sauce gribiche and a dusting of fennel pollen. The butterscotch-barbecue short rib shares the plate with crispy polenta and snap peas. One of the chef’s favorite dishes, the wagyu corndogs, come with yellow tomato ketchup and pickled mustard seeds—a wink to the traditional concession-stand condiments. Hatfield says he wasn’t going for kitsch, but he did want to “invoke that feeling of eating at a movie theater.” The references are subtle, as in the amuse bouche he sends out, a scoop of straight-up truffle butter decorated with crunchy tuilles of seasoned, ground-up popcorn. The Prewitt Old Fashioned adds popcorn simple syrup to the bourbon and Jamaican bitters. And caramel corn garnishes the Sticky Foot dessert, Hatfield’s dreamy play on sticky toffee pudding that comes with whiskey anglaise and caramel-corn ice cream.
Not everything on the menu is as well-executed. The beets in the beet salad are bland and criminally under-roasted, oddly tossed with sections of grapefruit and a basil-spiked mousse. A disappointing duck “porchetta” needed more crackle in its skin. And a $14 Sunday brunch pastry basket underwhelmed with its past-their-prime “local” baked goods and a weird scoop of jam that tricked me into popping a whole star of anise into my mouth. None of which has hurt business, it seems. One Friday evening, our server informed us as soon as we were seated that their reservation load required parties to linger no longer than two hours. Indeed, by the time we took our last bites of Sour Patch Pie (a raspberry meringue tart), the room was packed.
If that sounds off-brand for a town whose high school mascot is a Quaker, you probably haven’t been to Plainfield in a while. The Hendricks County town is in a state of redevelopment that includes the construction of a $37 million performing arts center across the street from Hatfield’s restaurant. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to visualize how that storyline will play out. But for now, The Prewitt is the hottest ticket in town. prewittdining.com