Last month our publisher Tricia Piquero and I had lunch at Urban Plates in Pleasant Hill. It is part of a chain of popular restaurants with 12 locations throughout California, including a second one in Dublin.
We had been looking forward to this but didn’t realize that the food would be served cafeteria style, with individual stations serving salads, sandwiches, hot entrées, soups, and drinks, plus a beer and wine bar. Some of the entrées are prepared after you order and then delivered to your table. Others are on the serving counter ready for pick-up. The food is served on colorful ceramic plates. After filling your tray, you pay at the cashier, and then sit down in open-seating dining areas, both indoors and out.
The Urban Plates dining experience is different from other buffets or self serve restaurants. For one thing, the setting is beautiful with a melding of industrial and farm styles creating a welcoming rustic décor using natural wood and employing a perfusion of foliage including numerous plants, especially colorful succulents. “Living walls” are created by covering common wood pallets with plants and flowers. The vegetation is so abundant that even the indoor dining area has an outdoor feeling about it. The tables are of various sizes and suitable for everything from intimate dining for a couple to group gatherings of a dozen or so.
We chose our meals from multiple entrées and side dishes including nearly a dozen different salads, all nicely prepared and tasty. The rustic bread was used to make eight different sandwiches with such ingredients as Portobello mushrooms and a variety of meat and fish.
The meals lend themselves to family style dining. Couples, families, and groups can share entrées and dishes with each other. That’s what Tricia and I did, sharing our selections that ranged from tasty to memorably delicious. I had osso buco, which is a dish featuring a lamb shank braised with vegetables and white wine. The dish was served with brown marchand de vin-style gravy. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and absolutely delicious. We also tried the Moroccan Chicken soup, which was so yummy I wanted to recreate it in my own kitchen. We enjoyed a colorful and richly textured beet salad with feta cheese and topped with homemade dressings. It was delicious and healthy, as was the sliced albacore tuna served tartar with a variety of dipping sauces. A soy ginger sauce was particularly scrumptious. Tricia ordered a caprese sandwich with pesto, fresh mozzarella, basil, and heirloom tomatoes, topped with arugula.
We enjoyed the congenial family friendly atmosphere of the place, plus the fact that the dishes offered a variety with selections suitable for any palate — and all served in generous portion sizes to guarantee that nobody goes away hungry.
Urban Plates is a great value; the self service style enabled the restaurant to offer food at affordable prices. It lives up to its tagline, “We are passionate about changing the way the world eats.”
We can’t wait to go back.