When The Astronomer and I first set out to find a suitable restaurant for our wedding rehearsal dinner, the only requirement was that the space needed to be nice enough for me to wear a super-cute dress. Of course, the food had to be good too, but that was a secondary matter. I was dead set on wearing a spectacular frock to the show and no one was going to stop me. After all, I am the bride.
We initially toyed with the idea of serving seven courses of beef and even briefly considered a mobile food cart gathering featuring Ricky’s fish tacos and the Cool Haus truck, but when it came down to it, these venues were too informal for the get-up I had in mind. So, back to the drawing board (or more accurately, bridal message boards) we went.
When Josh of FoodGPS heard that we were on the lookout for a slightly upscale joint that could fit and feed 75 guests, he pointed us to La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena. After failing for months to find a space that fit all of our rehearsal dinner needs, we were hoping that this place would be it.
La Grande Orange is located in the historic Santa Fe Depot, which was built in 1935 for the Santa Fe Railroad. The abandoned building was refurbished in 2008 by the restaurant. The Astronomer and I had a good feeling about the space as we strolled through the main dining room and bar area, but it was the idyllic patio out back that convinced us that La Grande Orange was the rehearsal dinner venue of our dreams.
The space was just the right size and the vibe was perfectly Californian. What sealed the deal for me were the whimsical strands of lights hanging high above our heads and the abundant number of heat lamps spread throughout the patio. I could already picture how great the space would look and perform once the sun went down.
Even though we were stoked about La Grande Orange’s patio, we couldn’t choose it in good conscience without first sampling the food. The Astronomer and I, along with our friend Sharon, dined here for lunch to make sure that the restaurant’s offerings were on par with the space we loved so much.
We started off with a small order of the restaurant’s famous deviled eggs ($4), which arrived nestled in a wooden slate. The tangy yolks were piled high with plenty of bacon bits. The gently boiled whites melded perfectly with the cloud of yolks.
The handmade spätzle ($3) with mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach was a great combination of starchy carbohydrates and market fresh vegetables. The salty gratings of Parmesan cheese tied both elements together beautifully.
The brussels sprout salad ($13) with aged manchego, dried berries, smoked almonds, bacon, and honey mustard vinaigrette was a dream. The slightly blanched leaves were tender and delicate, creating a totally unique brussels sprout experience. The little blueberries provided a bit of pop with each bite.
The Green Chili Burger ($12) with wood-fired poblano chili, grated cheddar, and chipotle aïoli was served on a house-made English muffin. Among the circus of fixins, the high-quality meat stood out front and center, along with the toasted and buttery English muffin that held everything together. The side of fries were dusted in moreish barbecue seasonings that had us totally addicted.
The Astronomer and Sharon both really enjoyed the short rib tacos ($15) with pico de gallo, made-to-order corn tortillas, basmati rice, black beans, and charred tomato salsa. I was too focused on the burger to be pulled away.
Lastly, we shared a slice of olive oil cake ($8) with lemon sorbet and mixed berries. The generous slice of cake had a delicate crumb and a golden crust, while the flavors were subtle but wholly appealing. I wasn’t expecting much based on its appearance, but the olive oil cake really surprised me with its understated sweetness.
Now, that we’ve found our rehearsal dinner spot, I need to go shopping for a rockin’ dress to wear to it.
La Grande Orange Cafe
260 S Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105