Surprise, Surprise

La Grande Orange’s cheeseburger is the ‘real’ Happy Meal

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 | 4:09 am

Some days you thank the Universe that you live here. You breathe in the clear wind-swept winter air, you watch the palm trees slightly sway in the Santa Ana breeze, and you blow a kiss to the San Gabriels watching over you.

La Grande Orange's Classic Cheeseburger

It feels like a day when anything can happen.

And it feels like the staff at La Grande Orange already knows all of that.

It’s one seriously happy crew, there in that beautifully restored former Amtrak rail station, where patrons dine out in the sunlight-dappled patio, lingering over iced teas and coffee, the smoky smell of the rotisserie flavoring the air.

Into that galaxy of possibilities, I strolled in, eager to eat, and eager to enjoy. As if on cue, the cheerful brigade at the Orange was only too ready to make that happen. Media director Allison Shashok and Executive Chef Tim McIntosh smile and talk like children who’ve hidden your present somewhere in the building, and would love to tell you if they only could.

McIntosh talks about the importance of food that makes you feel at home, and makes you feel like you could have made this yourself, though he knows you couldn’t, and the ebullient Shasox is only too ready to show off his creations.

Since it’s a day that feels open to surprises, Shasox suggests their Classic cheeseburger and the Green Chile cheeseburger. Now, I’m a guy who’s never eaten slabs of green chile on anything, ever, but I had a hamburger last week with a fried egg on it, and I hate eggs. So, bring it.

La Grande’s classic Cheeseburger is served on a fresh-baked bun, with their fresh ground chuck, ground several times a day, with grated cheese instead of sliced. The large flecks of cheese melt in perfect rhythm to the meat, and it’s a flavorful combination, even with tomatoes, which I’ve never cared for much, either.

La Grande Orange's Green Chili Cheesebuger.

Cue the surprise. The Green Chile burger is served on their renowned English muffins, with a healthy pile of green chilies plopped down right on top. I mean, a lot of them. I removed half, still leaving a substantial portion still on the burger, and had at it.  Whoa.

The chilies were the perfect counterpoint, a muted cymbal crash, when I was afraid an amp would blow. That half burger (I ate half of each) was gone in two verses and a chorus.

After a dizzying round of cheeseburgers that ranged from towers of everything to wafer-thin fried cheese slices, this cheeseburger was the perfect surprise.

What do we learn from this, class? We learn that your fears are doors to The Universe and a bite of this and a bite of that won’t kill you. Or something.

I strolled out of La Grande Orange with two halves of two great burgers in a bag, along with their famous English muffins, and walked out to the adjoining Gold Line train platform, just in time to see my train leave.

Let’s call it a 95% perfect day.

La Grande Orange is at 260 South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. (626) 356-4444.

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