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Review Thu Aug 21 2008
I know Orange on Harrison's claims to fame are its delicately constructed rice-and-fruit sushi ("Frushi", pictured) and weekly pancake flights: four mounds of mini-pancakes smothered in a pun of flavors. (This week's schtick, French Dessert toppings: tarte tartin sauteed apples; baba au rhum rum syrup; au'chocolat chocolate ganache and napoleon sweetened ricotta and strawberry anglaise).
I prefer my morning sugar infused in a cup or three of strong coffee. So usually when I hit my favorite downtown brunch palace, I go for the savory side of the menu. At my second of two visits to the eatery this week, the waitress pegged me from my pleading request. "You've been coming here since before we changed cooks, right?"
Right, but I didn't know about the change. A year ago, a staffer told me the eatery was trying to save money by metering butter out only to those who asked for it.
Since then, whenever I've ordered a grilled cheese (my favorite: mild melted white cheddar and mozzarella gluing together two pieces of earthy marbled Rye, zested up with tomato and bacon), or on my rare sweet-tooth mornings, the popular French Toast Kabobs (honey-drizzled coconut French toast and fruit on skewers), I've layed on the begging for an adequate amount of butter to be applied to my meal's griddle of origin. It's long been the only way to make Orange on Harrison's grilled creations more palatable than chewing on cardboard.
I'm happy to report the dry spell is over.
This week, their kitchen served up two of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've had in Chicago. With their outsides done to a buttery crunchiness and in place of the formerly blackened, carbonized dairy ash down the side of the sandwich a gooey ooze of properly melted but not mutilated cheesy goodness.
Like Orange on Harrison's other savory fare (best of class: Green Eggs & Ham with basil pesto, roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and a bit more rhyme than the competing version at arch-rival Kitsch'n), the grilled cheese comes with a serviceable cylinder of semi-smashed potatoes. Personally, I've never understood the concept of the smashed potato: a culinary half-breed that offers mashed and home-fries fans each only half the dish they yearn for. For these, you'll still have to beg for a side of butter, in any case.
Start with a pint of freshly squeezed juices, ticked off as you please from a long list of possibilities, but if it's Frushi you're after, come on the weekend. The stuff's not offered Monday through Friday. Arrive before 11a.m. Saturday and Sunday to avoid an hour's wait behind a long line of South Loop students and their out-of-town parents, or opt for a seat at the bar to watch the orange-juicing machine in action. Don't come past 3p.m. whatever you do, the place closes up shop after the late lunch crowd leaves.
Part of a small local chain, Orange on Harrison's brethren include outposts in Lakeview, Roscoe Village and beginning September 1st, Lincoln Park (at Clark and Fullerton). Hopefully expansion wont make the place go too corporate. Laminated menus and bare, freshly painted walls have already replaced much groovier printed-daily paper menus and edgy, boho artwork.
Management ought to realize the error of its ways. If Orange on Harrison's style-forward patrons wanted to eat in a Panera's, they'd walk two blocks down the street. No amount of butter is worth losing your cool over.
Orange on Harrison
75 W. Harrison Street, 312-447-1000