By Estee Cohen.
This may be the easiest article I’ve ever written. Regular readers of this column can tell if I am truly excited about a restaurant. This week I’m not holding back my enthusiasm. The star of this week’s column is Orange Delite and Grill, a restaurant whose roots are close to my heart.
Like many, many people in the valley, I have been a steady customer of Orange Delite since it opened in August of 1991. In the early 90s the valley was a different breed, with few eating options outside of La Pizza and Falafel Village. Correct me if I’m wrong, but to my dusty elementary school memory, not a single kosher burger joint existed in the valley before OD and G opened.
We valley folk thought of ourselves as pioneers, hard-working families who cared more about community and less about walking a couple miles to shul in over one hundred and ten degrees in the summer heat with no eruv on the horizon. I remember looking for broken sprinklers to sip from on the seemingly never ending walk to Chabad of Encino.
The owner of Orange Delite, Brooke Hecht (nee Laniado) has been a friend of mine for over 25 years. We were actually in nursery school together. After Brooke graduated Gan Israel Preschool, which still exists under the same administration (hello Renee and Rabbi Greene!) and is going strong, we parted ways as I attended Emek and she ventured into the local public school. We touched base every summer at Camp Gan Israel of the Valley and it was there that Brooke began her path which led to a frum life, and of course, Orange Delite.
Brooke was about 13 years old when she asked Rabbi Meyer Greene if she could be a Junior Counselor in camp instead of a camper. He agreed, but gently explained that she would have to wear skirts every day. She bought a few skirts and joined the staff. After that fantastic summer Brooke decided she wanted to attend a Jewish high school in the fall and enrolled in Valley Torah. As she took on more and more Mitzvos, she realized the lack of a great fast food restaurant nearby. She sat down with her contractor dad, Shlomo Laniado (obm), and told him that she wished he would open a kosher burger restaurant and immediately he replied with his famous phrase, “Okey dokey!”
For those of you who did not merit to meet Shlomo, this may be difficult to understand. What busy, employed father would agree to open an expensive, risky business venture after a 2 minute conversation with his preteen? But, Shlomo, who was taken too soon from a terrible disease, was a warm, sincere, and humble man. He cared deeply for the Jewish community and understood that this restaurant would be a huge asset to the San Fernando Valley.
The first location took over a traif burger stand and only had enough space for a handful of people to dine outside on the patio. The rest of us took our place at the bar, among large, colorful jars of pickled vegetables, staring out the window as cars zoomed by on the boulevard. Orange Delite was immediately a huge hit and our family, along with dozens of others, enjoyed our Brooke Salads and Burgers nearly every Sunday.
In January 2006, Orange Delite upgraded to a location that is 4 times the size of the original hut. It remains today at 13628 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Orange Delite is a family friendly restaurant. Once, when a little girl was a bit noisy in the restaurant another customer complained to Shlomo Laniado. He replied, “I’m not telling her she has to be quiet, this is a family friendly restaurant and she’s acting like a kid should act.”
I ask Brooke what it’s like to run the restaurant alongside her awesome husband, Avi Hecht, and her sweet, warm Mom, Ronit Laniado, now that her father is gone. She admits that at first it was very difficult, because everything, from the water pitcher to the stove, reminded her of her father. However, she feels that “he’s here with us and we are making him proud. Orange Delite is his legacy and he opened it for me and for the Jewish people. Tons of people, who would not necessarily eat Kosher, come here and eat kosher meals.”
There are tons of tasty options on the vast menu, and the two dishes I recommend are the Southwest Chicken Salad which has been their most popular entrée since opening day, and their legendary Kobe Beef Burger. Once you’ve tried those, go on to the BBQ Beef Sub made of pulled brisket, which all the males in my family are obsessed with.
Try them for office lunches when you’re in the vicinity, my husband’s company meetings love to include an Orange Delite spread with heapings of deli wraps, salads, and shakes. They do fabulous catering for any size party – even weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Orange Delite is constantly packed, but you will always get awesome service. Brooke, Avi, and their wait staff will treat you like you are the only customer in the room. Brooke is proud of what she and her father have built together and she is very grateful that her customers continue to support them. Brooke tells me, “We are very grateful for customers. Our people keep coming, and we can make a parnassah providing good, kosher food. We appreciate every single customer. My dad would be proud.” Indeed he is.
Please call (818) 788-9896 to order. Open 10 AM-10 PM. Bring your family!