The last remaining location of Orange, the longtime local brunch chain that has shrunk to a single outpost in Roscoe Village, will permanently close this summer after 15 years at 2011 W. Roscoe Street. The cozy neighborhood spot, known among locals for unusual creations like “frushi” (read: fruit with sushi rice) as well as reliable brunch staples and coffee roasted with orange peels, will serve its last patrons over the coming weeks. An official closing date is not yet available, according to an employee.
But as Orange bids farewell to the city, a local hit is poised to take its place. Roost Chicken & Biscuits, one of the first spots in town to spotlight Nashville hot chicken when it launched in 2012 as a food truck (dubbed the “Cluck Truck”), plans to relocate its now 10-year-old restaurant on Irving Park Road in Lakeview to the former Orange space with a tentative launch date in early July.
Founded in 2001 in Lakeview by Andrew Klemen, a Realtor who has since relocated to Wisconsin, Orange rode a wave of brunch popularity in Chicago that buoyed locally-owned competitors like Bongo Room and now-shuttered favorite Toast, drawing diners to its bright, family-friendly outposts for flights of tiny pancakes, decadent French toasts, and a slew of omelets and egg dishes. At its height, Orange operated six locations in Chicago, but that number declined by the early 2010s. Sister restaurant Range, a nine-year-old American comfort food spot in Lincoln Park, remains open. Klemen has not yet responded to requests for more information.
For Roost owner Joe Scroggs, the move is representative of Roost’s evolution from a mobile operation to an emphasis on takeout to — hopefully — a dine-in hub for fans and neighbors that’s just a six-minute drive from the Irving Park Road space.
“Roscoe Village is fantastic and the vibe of the neighborhood fits very well with who we are,” he says. “We’re probably not going to introduce ourselves to new people with this move, we’re just going to make it much more convenient to visit us.”
When Roost in 2014 opened its first physical restaurant Lakeview, Scroggs says he saw it as a home base for a burgeoning food truck empire and had low expectations for foot traffic and takeout business. But the team was happily surprised to find significant demand in the area for its fried birds, spicy chicken sandwiches, and flaky buttermilk biscuits, and in 2015 opened a second spot in River West.
That emphasis on to-go business meant Roost was better equipped to navigate fluctuating pandemic safety mitigations, and the business was able to sustain itself on takeout and delivery. But the opportunity to give patrons a taste of his menu items hot out of the oven — and purchase the Roscoe Street building that housed Orange — was too tempting for Scroggs to resist.
The purchase also offered him a chance to unfurl a grander plan: to buy multiple buildings and turn Roost’s general managers, all of whom have climbed the ranks over many years at the company, into owner-operators who are not only partners in the restaurants but also have the security of owning the property. It’s a riff on a model associated with another chicken company: fast food giant Chick-fil-A, where individuals can buy a restaurant for $10,000. But unlike the notorious chain, Roost wants the new owners to have real decision-making power, as well as skin in the game.
“[At Chick-fil-A] you can make good money, but you don’t have any assets,” Scroggs says. “This gives us an opportunity to get our managers into ownership roles where they have long-term financial benefits with the company, and the company has the asset of the property for growth moving forward.”
He also is offering positions to Orange employees, many of whom have spent around a decade at the restaurant, promising to fit them into the schedule at either of Roost’s locations. Experienced restaurant workers are still at a premium as the industry continues to grapple with staffing challenges, and Scroggs acknowledges he’d be “thrilled” to bring on such seasoned staff members. But the decision is also an act of goodwill. “Having a job go away after 10 years is tough,” he says. “We want to give them whatever resources we can to help, if they’re interested.”
Roost Roscoe Village, 2011 W. Roscoe Street, Scheduled to open in early July.