Orange Works Café Serves it up in Strathmore
In the WorksMarch 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Christy Canafax
Throw an orange down the street and watch how far it rolls. Not very, right? Well, that’s inertia for you. But Orange Works Café in Strathmore seems to have found a way to defy the laws of physics. Basically built out of oranges, this café has been on one tremendous roll and shows no signs of slowing down – if anything, it’s picking up steam.
In the years since Isabel and Jacquen Khal purchased Orange Works Café, they’ve kept themselves busy – busy enough to lose track of time. “It’s been 12 years,” says Isabel, “but I keep saying it’s been 10.” A testament to their success, the Khals have renovated and doubled the size of their café, but they still speak about it modestly. “It’s just a small café,” says Isabel, “known for our orange ice cream.”
Between the four acres of orange trees behind the café and the Khals’ residential grove, that’s a lot of ice cream to make. And every day, the Khals make it fresh, and with their own fresh oranges. But when the Khals bought Orange Works Café from the previous owners, the recipe wasn’t included with the title. “He didn’t sell me the recipe for his orange ice cream,” Isabel says. “I had to make up my own.”
That was before the advent of do-it-yourself videos on the Internet, and Isabel had never made ice cream before. “The last time I even sold ice cream I was maybe 14 years old and working at a Baskin Robbins,” she laughs. So she taught herself the old-fashioned way (basically, any way not involving the internet). “I kept experimenting till I got it perfect,” she says. Not just perfect, but better. “For the last 12 years I’ve had people come back and say, ‘Wow, this is better than we remember.’”
In the world of orange ice cream, the Khals have planted their flag, but they’ve conquered more than just desserts. They sell whole oranges and orange smoothies, and then there’s the sandwiches. “We have five different kinds: a vegetarian with grilled eggplant and roasted garlic, and we do tri-tip, turkey, ham and pastrami,” she says. They may have found their niche with oranges, but that doesn’t meant the Khals glossed over the heartier foods. “I’m going to tell you,” she admits, “you can get sandwiches anywhere.” But read a few reviews on Yelp and you’ll see that customers come for the sandwiches just as much as for the ice cream. That’s because everything’s fresh, Isabel says. “Fresh bread, fresh product every single morning… and I cook the tri-tip every single day.”
The Khals also takes suggestions from their customers through social media. One customer wrote, “Hey, I’m coming home form the Army. Can you do this for me please?” Whenever they get requests like that, Isabel says, “I try my best to do it.” That’s because the Khals credit their customers with making Orange Works work. “That’s how we became what we are,” says Isabel. “I have the best customers. Our customers are wonderful, and they’re excited to be there, and that makes me excited to be there.”
The Khals use their Instagram and Facebook accounts not only to take requests from their customers, but also to announce their daily ice cream special. Isabel always makes her famous orange ice cream, but she also makes a second, unique ice cream. A customer offered the Khals fresh cucumbers if Isabel would make a cucumber ice cream. Cucumber ice cream? Sure, why not? The daily ice cream might be unique, but never not delicious. They’ve made pomegranate, honeydew, watermelon, even a chili mango, which Isabel admits was an experiment. “But I tried it and it was out of this world.”
Yes, good eats can’t be beat, but if you’re willing to make the drive to Strathmore, you’ll be rewarded with more than a good meal and hearty dose of vitamin C. The Khals say there’s something about the atmosphere at Orange Works Café that can’t be found anywhere else. And they know because they’re looking – they would like to open a second café, “but I can’t find it,” says Isabel, there’s just no other place like Orange Works. Here, she says, “there’s a beautiful view of the Sierras. You just have to come and feel the atmosphere. You can get lunch, sit outside on the grass under an orange umbrella and have an orange smoothie made with fresh orange juice.” That’s not a bad deal, especially when for only $8.99, customers get a sandwich, chips, drink and a small ice cream. But the atmosphere and view – well, that’s free, of course.
The Orange Works Café • 22314 Avenue 196, Strathmore
(559) 568-2658 • Open Monday through Saturday, 11am – 4pm
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