As consumer interest in brunching in Chicago has taken off, so too has fierce competition between restaurants to capture customers during the breakfast/brunch occasion. Some places just serve good old fashioned breakfast dishes like omelettes and waffles while other places try to stand out with unique forms of pancakes, french toast, skillets, and chicken and waffles. A spot in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago goes for the later approach, serving specialized breakfast, lunch, and drink options to its patrons. While dishes at the restaurant Orange sound and look fantastic, they miss the mark especially when compared with other stand-out breakfast and brunch spots in the city.
Orange has locations both in Lincoln Park and in Roscoe Village. The interiors of both look like that of an fairly basic diner with some windows that allow some sunlight to pour in and fun artwork that hangs on the walls. Overall the ambiance is a bit more drab than other brunch locations I’ve been to. My friends and I went to the Lincoln Park location on an unusually warm weekend in the winter as we had heard about some unique dishes we wanted to try, including their well-known pancake flight.
We had a small wait but were seated relatively quickly. Right away we were asked if we wanted anything to drink. Orange Restaurant has an array of brunch cocktails such as the standard Bloody Mary, but the spot also has unique drinks like different fruit flavored mimosas in pineapple and strawberry. One of my friends, Molly, ordered a mimosa and enjoyed her drink but didn’t think it was anything particularly special. My other friend Andy and I wanted some coffee, and we were offered regular coffee or orange coffee. The orange coffee is, as the name suggests, orange flavored but it is not orange in color. We decided to try this fruit flavored coffee but after a few sips we immediately regretted our decision. The orange flavoring tasted extremely artificial and completely overpowered the coffee. Basically this drink tasted like a fourth of coffee and three fourths of shitty orange cough syrup.
For food, my girlfriend Erin and I split some savory and sweet items, which in my opinion is the best approach to any meal. For savory we grabbed the interesting sounding Caprese Eggs Benedict which included two english muffins topped with tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, a poached egg, and pesto flavored hollandaise sauce. I felt there was too little mozzarella on the sandwich and that the pesto hollandaise sauce was a bit off in flavor, making this a below average dish. Most savory breakfast plates at Orange are served with a side of house mashed potatoes. I don’t know how you screw up mashed potatoes, but Orange did. The potatoes had a clumpy and gritty texture, with no flavor at all. I personally think they would be better off serving hash browns or roasted red potatoes with their breakfast dishes, but perhaps they would have fucked that up too.
As a side I got a some bacon. It was thick and fairly crispy so it hit the spot. I’m glad they didn’t screw up bacon, because it is pretty damn hard to make bacon taste bad.
The dish that my friends and I were most excited about was the pancake flight. Some of us had been to another restaurant in Lincoln Park that serves an amazing french toast flight, so we were excited to try a similar approach to pancakes. The flavors of the pancake flight are rotating depending on the season. Flavors featured in Orange’s pancake flights have included strawberry, banana, honey pecan, and blueberry.
The day we went to Orange the pancake flight included Apricot, Sweet Potato, Cinnamon Apple, and Oreo, a fairly random assortment of flavors usually associated with Autumn. Three mini pancakes make up each flavor or fourth of the flight so they can definitely be shared. What was brought out to us looked so promising but failed to be even as good as pancakes that I can cook at home with the just add-water mix. The pancakes themselves were too soft and a bit soggy. All of the flavors with the exception of the Oreo one lacked a strong flavor as promised. The dried apricots on one pancake were chewy and made for an unsavory texture while the sweet potato pancake just tasted like a plain pancake, lacking flavor. The Oreo pancake was the group’s favorite, but it was more of a huge mound of whip cream then anything else. I felt as though I could have easily made that Oreo pancake at home, even with my eyes closed. All in all the pancake flight was an enormous let down.
Orange does have some unique items that we didn’t try on the menu including Fruit Sushi and Chai Tea French Toast. As much as I’d be interested in trying some of these dishes my experience at the restaurant leaves me tentative to ever go back, especially when there are so many other fantastic brunch spots around in the Windy City. Orange’s tagline is contemporary brunch with a peel. I’d say it’s more of brunch with un-a-peel.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire