Where: La Grande Orange Grocery
When: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Dish: Sophie's Chicken Hash
Price: $11.75 (including tax and tip)
The Setting: La Grande Orange, or LGO if you're in the know, is part pizzeria, part boutique grocery, and part restaurant located at the corner of 40th Street and Campbell in Phoenix. The main dining area has the ambiance of an old pizza parlor and is jam-packed with tables. One huge copper table sits among the wooden ones in the center of the room, and a long community table overlooks the pizza kitchen. Through a small doorway is the adjoining grocery area, where we had to navigate displays of interesting gifts for sale on our way to the counter where we ordered our food. But despite the tall warehouse ceilings, the room seemed overstuffed, between items for sale and multiple food cases.
The Food: LGO's breakfast menu is relatively small, but the restaurant has a sizable selection of pastries and diners can order off the lunch menu if nothing else breakfast-wise sounds like a good fit. While the French pancakes served with honey, creme fraiche, and fresh fruit ($6.75) sounded delicious, we couldn't pass up Sophie's Chicken Hash, listed on the menu as romanesco, castleveltrano olives, peppers, bacon, an over-easy egg, lebni, and a side of Ingo’s lacto-fermented hot sauce ($9).
The Good: This dish was a surprising combination of quality ingredients and flavors. There were so many slightly crunchy vegetables, many of which were not listed on the menu. Broccoflower shaped like small fir trees mixed with yellow peppers, slices of fennel that had just the slightest licorice flavor, and salty-soft sun dried tomatoes. Large, pit-free castleveltrano olives were a bold addition, briny and firm amid the milder flavors. Torn chunks of rotisserie-style chicken were mixed in with the vegetables and the entire hash was tossed in a thin romanesco sauce that served to keep the dish moist but was was otherwise undetectable. A dollop of lebni sat atop the hash under the fried egg. It was creamy and reminiscent of tzaziki sauce. Small, perfectly cooked bits of crunchy bacon were sprinkled over the egg.
But the lacto-fermented hot sauce was truly phenomenal. It was make-your-nose-run hot, and more like a chutney than a traditional hot sauce. The ingredients were blended smooth, and the sauce was salty with a beautiful fermented flavor. When added to the hash, it highlighted the flavors of the olives and sun-dried tomato and balanced the more mild flavors of the other ingredients.
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The Bad: As first-time patrons, we were slightly intimidated and confused by LGO's setup. We weren't sure where to park, as the spots in the front had a time limit on them, and finding the correct door to enter was more difficult than we'd like to admit. We wandered around for a bit trying to figure out where to order, and at first we didn't realize we had to go back into the grocery from the dining room to pick up our food. Now that we've been once, however, we've got the hang of it and finding our way won't be a problem in the future.
While we loved everything in Sophie's Chicken Hash, the undisclosed items could be a turn-off. We're not sure whether LGO uses seasonal items in the hash that change frequently, or if there are just some ingredients that aren't listed on the menu, but if you're a picky eater, we suggest asking about the vegetables in the hash before ordering so as not to be unpleasantly surprised.
All In All: Sophie's Chicken Hash was one of the best things we've had in a long time, breakfast or otherwise. The ingredients were fresh and the flavors were varied and playful. And the hot sauce was fabulous — we would buy it by the bottle if we could. We can't stop thinking about this dish, and for $11.75 including tax and tip, we got more than our money's worth. Because of the odd setup at LGO, however, we'd recommend taking a veteran diner friend with you if it's your first time there. We'll definitely be back here soon, and though we're sure the other breakfast items are great, we'll be ordering Sophie's Chicken Hash every time we go because it's that damn good.