Gadabout—April 6, 2007

Nothing rhymes with Orange; it’s a unique staple among colors, fruits, and Chicago brunch places.

Citrus epileptics, beware. As you enter the South Loop restaurant, tangy shades of lime, lemon and clementine coat your surroundings, fraternizing with the aroma of juices squeezed fresh at Orange’s large trademark juice bar. Although the brightness could easily come off as disgustingly cheery, the scene is tempered into something not so much perky as cool. Bizarre, comedic work on the walls by local artists, showcasing smoking snowmen, angry bus drivers, and abstract feathers, meshes well with the violent hair colors of the staff. Regardless of their punk-rocker looks, the servers are friendly, attentive, and enthusiastic, almost scarily so. Upon entering, we were told by no less than three people that our table would be ready in a few seconds.

The style, which makes sense given Orange’s Lincoln Park roots, is reflected in the food and ordering process. Before the meal, each table comes equipped with miniature pencils and sheets of paper à la minigolf. Diners choose their individual juice blends from a list of over a dozen juices—anything from the mundane orange and pineapple to the stranger ginger and kiwi—marking them off on the little sheets before handing them to the server. Although a momentary craving for pineapple-celery juice with a twist of strawberry might result in a $5 drink suitable only as an emetic, both of the juice combinations we ordered—a large orange-lime-mango ($5) and a small orange-pineapple ($3)—were as lively as That Kid in Sosc on a Marx kick.

While the brunch menu at Orange also includes sandwiches, the breakfast items are its creative hallmarks. The most hyped item, the signature “Pancake Flight” ($10.95), includes four stacks of CD-sized “silver dollar” pancakes served on a large plate divided into four parts. Our server seemed absolutely thrilled at the order, and post-pancakes, we agreed. The week’s theme, “Spring,” included “Tree,” “Grass,” “Pink,” and “Flower” stacks. “Tree” was particularly memorable with its chocolate ganache and candied pecans, yet “Flower,” despite its edible daisy and orange tulip syrup, lacked the character and flavor of the other stacks. But perhaps we’re just not experimental enough to enjoy floral arrangements for pancakes.

The French Toast Kabob ($8.95) was an architectural masterpiece that tasted as fantastic as it looked. The kabobs themselves, arranged in a pyramid, were composed of skewered pineapple, strawberry and French toast on top of coconut-mango salad and bathed in strawberry, and mango sauce. Whole pieces of French toast alongside the kabobs were grilled, and while their interiors were perfectly chewy, the exteriors were crisply burnt—be sure to ask for medium rare instead of well done.

The cinnamon roll pancakes ($8.95) emulate a real cinnamon roll, sugary glaze and all. The server helpfully recommended a half order, but we later had to admit that only people recovering from gastric bypass surgery would be unable to finish a full stack for breakfast. All portions at Orange look threatening, but leave you pleasantly full. Orange also offers orange-infused coffee and sushi that substitutes fruit for fish, known as “frushi,” which we regretfully didn’t get to sample.

The very original breakfast items, fresh juice, and relatively convenient South Loop location make Orange a compelling alternative to the equally touted brunch at Pierce. Indeed, with its Harrison Street location steps away from the #6 stop and the Van Buren Metra station, it could take you less time to get to Orange than to walk to Pierce.

Could delicious rhyme with Orange?

Rating: 3/4 sporks