To eat at L’Orange is to l’love L’Orange. 

This cozy second-floor bistro on the outskirts of Ladd’s Addition bills itself as a winery restaurant, but don’t be fooled: The wine is truly outstanding, but the plates that Chef Joel Stocks and his team turn out linger in my mind far longer than they lasted on my tongue.

It’s French, it’s Pacific Northwest, it’s a little bit Mediterranean depending on the mood, and it’s probably my favorite new restaurant.

Wallpaper on the staircase - photo by suzette Smith
The cozy dining room - photo by Suzette Smith

I’ve already dedicated column space to the French onion soup in my Best Bites of 2023 roundup. This sneakily vegetarian bowl starts with caramelized onions and rich broth, and then adds dreamy, soft squares of roast garlic bread pudding and crispy gruyere cheese as a topper, instead of the traditional finish of melted cheese. It’s only $10, so everyone should just order their own.

Stocks, formerly of the excellent prix fixe Holdfast Dining with then partner Will Preisch, can charge a mint for his cooking. But at L’Orange, no entree tops $29, with portions that are right sized to allow you to taste around, without feeling like you and your date are splitting peas.

Instead, splurge on the wine, curated by L’Orange co-owner Jeff Vejr, who is also behind legendary Les Caves on Northeast Alberta. There’s an ample bottle list, but bopping around the glass menu is more fun, imho. It’s always changing, but expect a few orange wines, and a good mix of local and international treats. For being a wine bar, asking nicely about non alcoholic options reveals some real treats, especially if you catch them trying to finish off bottles opened for a tasting menu. I got to try a glass from a bottle of Muri non-alcoholic wine, made by a Noma alumni that was sparkling and made with fermented berries and smoked rhubarb that was just as complex as any natural wine.

Pork coppa - photo by Suzette Smith
Winter salad - photo by Suzette Smith

We dined at L’Orange from September to mid-winter, and observed the menu format stay roughly the same, with concessions made for seasonality. A divine Salade Lyonnaise with fat bacon lardons made way for an even better chicory, grapefruit, and fennel winter salad that pops with crunchy quinoa and citrus bursts.

A substantial short rib gave way to a braised and grilled pork coppa, which is perhaps the best smelling dish I’ve had in a long time, with fat white corona beans and the meat lounging in a rich broth. The gnocchi are absolute flavor pillows. Where some gnocchi can be thick and drab, the latest version gets a huge lift from a sparky pistachio and ginger sauce, with roasted winter squash and mushrooms breaking up the density. 

I didn’t get a chance to try the sturgeon that’s on the menu now. It’s smoked slightly before pan roasting, a personal regret considering how other tables around us were gasping about it. (Fun sturgeon fact from the internet: All sturgeon have the ability to leap into the air, and scientists aren't sure why!)

A cold leek dish with a crab mousse and pink peppercorn vinaigrette is decent, and depending on the richness of your other selections, may break up a heavy meal. But if you don’t need the lightness, choose the grilled cabbage with a brown butter dressing; your arteries won’t thank you, but your stomach will.

L'Orange shaved cheese, served with honeyed hazelnuts - photo by Suzette Smith
L’Orange cake and winter salad - photo by Suzette Smith

The cheese is always on the menu, here served shaved by a specialized hand-cranked machine that produces the perfect texture to let a good cow or sheep’s cheese melt in your mouth, even as you reach for more. The L’Orange cake, too, never leaves the menu, and for good reason. Crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, there’s a bitter orange flavor that sets off crunchy sugar and cardamom icing in a swoon-worthy way.

Oh, and as of the new year, Stocks’ fine dining background cannot be denied. L’Orange has recently introduced a tasting menu, available at the bar on some weeknights. Seven courses with an included wine or non-alcoholic pairing runs $190 each. I’ll be saving my allowance for that.

L’Orange, 2005 SE 11th, Mon-Sat, 5 pm-10 pm,, reservations recommended, not ADA accessible