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FOODIE FILE: RHONDA’S KITCHEN

Comfort food is one of life’s simple pleasures. Childhood memories flood in as you bite into steaming home-cooked biscuits-and-gravy or warm cobbler.

Memories of Sunday meals after church, the feeling of being held in your mother’s arms, and other happy thoughts come to mind as you dig in at Rhonda’s Kitchen in Orange City.

On May 29, after Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant closed after many years in business, Rhonda Hogue and her business partner Robert Gingerich opened an American comfort-food establishment in its place.

Hogue was born in Rhode Island, and has been a DeBary resident since 1996.

“I’ve been working in restaurants for 20 years, and Robert and I decided it was time for my own place,” Hogue said.

The new restaurant in the Spring Hills Center at 2487 S. Volusia Ave., Unit 101, is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

The 122-seat restaurant has been completely remodeled, with mild gray and light blue on the walls, forest-green booths and chairs, wood trim, and the addition of a bar in front of an open kitchen window. 

The walls abound with framed sayings, such as “Mind your biscuits, and life will be gravy.” The front is lined with giant spotless windows that let in the sunshine.

“I wanted to make this place very inviting, where you can come into a bright clean restaurant and just relax,” Hogue said.

Rhonda’s Kitchen also made a separate room available for rental for private parties of up to 34 people.

I made my way past the “Please seat yourself” sign, took a seat, and was greeted by Alyssa Hogue, Rhonda’s daughter.

She handed me a menu and let me know breakfast is served all day long. Options include a variety of egg-breakfast combinations, omelets, breakfast wraps, skillets, pancakes and French toast.

The other side of the menu showcases lunch, including a choice of 14 sandwiches, burgers, and other comfort foods such as meatloaf and country-fried steak.

I started with a Reuben made with thick sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on toasted rye bread and served with a side of Thousand Island dressing for dipping.

My side was macaroni and cheese. This was delightfully homemade, with a crusted cheese layer on top and a plethora of cheese.

Then I wanted breakfast. With Alyssa’s help, I chose the Meat Lovers Skillet: a giant biscuit cut in half and piled with sausage, bacon, ham, two eggs, and a heaping portion of white gravy over the top. It was rich, hearty, pleasurable, and more than filling.

I was next led to the dessert cooler. Pastry chef Pat Labarbera bakes from scratch a variety of cakes, cobblers and pies throughout the week. I saw a beautiful cheesecake and went all the way in choosing homemade blueberry topping. Alyssa lathered on whipped cream. This dessert is velvety, creamy and fruity, and the crust delivers the perfect crunch.

I was now full and needed to be carried out in a wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, this is one service Rhonda’s Kitchen doesn’t offer.

This new restaurant is a nice addition to Orange City for those wanting a homestyle meal in a relaxed environment. 

The service is friendly, and the employees work together as if they are all part of your family, too.

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