Orange Inn - baby back ribs - Diane Armitage

If you follow my blog or my book, you know I’m a big fan of our long-standing Orange Inn’s breakfast and lunch options. How can you not adore those giant cinnamon rolls that Kathy Bodrero creates herself, or not savor John Bodrero’s Guinness World Record Orange Smoothie?

You can only imagine my glee, then, when my nose actually led me to the Orange Inn’s doors last Thursday evening. This summer, in celebration of their 84th year in business (wow), the Bodreros are reintroducing BBQ from their originating days at Irvine Ranch. Giddyup!

Breathing New Life Into Nostalgia
“When we had the original Orange Inn at what’s now Newport Coast, the cowboys used to come down from Irvine Ranch with huge offerings of beef, and the surfers would come up with albacore and lobster and abalone,” says Kathy. “So, we’d just throw everything on a barbecue behind the restaurant and everyone would feast for hours.”

John and Kathy Bodrero 520

Never ones to leave great nostalgia behind, the Bodreros have now implemented an entire dinner menu of succulent barbecue items. Earlier this spring they ordered a custom-built smoker and brought in a longtime friend and chef who had just returned to So Cal after achieving grill master status in none other than Kansas City.

Oh, does this guy deserve the accolades he snatched up in KC. The seven primary menu items offer beef, chicken and fish, each marinated in its own secret sauce and then served with yet another individualized secret sauce. (Try to get info on any of the ingredients he uses and the entire crew shuts up like a clam. He’s only shared his recipes with three of the OI staffers.)


Smoker Secrets Galore
What blessed relief it is that – at least for the summer – Laguna Beach actually possesses a BBQ joint. And this is the real McCoy.

Orange Inn-smoked prime rib

Smoked Prime Rib

Orange Inn-blackened-salmon-Diane-Armitage

Orange Inn Blackened Salmon

For beef eaters, it’s Pan Seared Dry Rub Rib Eye (marinated 48 hours) or Smoked Prime Rib, which is smoked for hours with a combination of cherry, apple and oak wood and topped with the chef’s award-winning Whiskey Pepper Au Jus. Given that I’ve never been a big fan of prime rib, I opted for the dish and am pleased to report that it’s the best prime rib I’ve tasted. I think, actually, I’ve become a rabid fan.

The Teriyaki Chicken is marinated in soy, ginger and fresh oranges, and then topped with grilled pineapple. Its chicken partner, the Garlic Chicken is sautéed in garlic, mushrooms and fresh herbs and topped with roasted red pepper sauce.

Orange Inn - blackened red snapper

Orange Inn Blackened Red Snapper

Swimming right along, I try the evening’s fish special along with one of the menu items, Wild Atlantic Salmon. The sustainable salmon is smoked first over oak wood, and then finished in a cast iron skillet and topped with a brown sugar mustard glaze. It is flaky, tender, tasty goodness in every bite.

Rather than try their Blackened Mahi-Mahi, which I would undoubtedly swoon for (I would eat Mahi-Mahi in a peanut butter sandwich if someone would just create it for me), I opt for the evening’s special, the Blackened Red Snapper, whose blackening agents are redacted from the recipe. (Sorry, folks, even I couldn’t pry this one out of them.)

Whatever they do, they do it perfectly right. The snapper is served up with a … ready? … roasted red pepper-orange-horseradish marmalade. The odd combo works delightfully well.

The snapper dish was the coup de grâce until those danged Smoked Baby Back Ribs made their entrance. Glory. Marinated first in a secret (gee, what a surprise) dry rub, these babies are smoked for gosh-knows-how-long (they wouldn’t tell me that either) and served in half and full rack portions.

I think stopping at a half rack would just be sheer torture, these ribs are so succulent.

They’re loaded up with a daily made, award-winning BBQ sauce made of just eight ingredients which we’ll never know.


Sides & Dessert, Of Course
Don’t even think for a minute that Kathy’s substantial cooking and baking skills are taking an extended summer vacation. Baked beans, garlic asparagus, coleslaw and her heavenly garlic mashed potatoes are freshly made sides.

Order up side salads, too, but don’t even think about walking away from the table without her incredible homemade cheesecake with Chef’s caramel apple sauce ladled generously atop. Although I tried to exit without it, Kathy gave me one of those stern looks that, until last Thursday, only my Grandmother reserved for me at the end of her Sunday suppers.

I slouched out, cheesecake lovingly cradled in its “to go” box, and have doubled my workout efforts since.

“We’ve had such a great time returning to this old dinner menu idea,” says Orange Inn’s John Bodrero. “We just hope it catches on as fun option in town this summer.”

Are you kidding, John? The secret … well, most of it … is definitely out.


Orange Inn is at 703 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (949) 494-6085. Closed for dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays, otherwise open from 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.


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