Urban Plates is an affordable restaurant located at busy strip mall in Irvine, California. This same strip small is home to some of Orange County’s more popular eateries like DonerG, Capital Noodle Bar, and Creamistry.
It is not a traditional restaurant but more of a cafeteria. The majority of the meals cost $10, while some items (like the pizza or smaller portions) are $5. Seafood, like salmon, cost a buck more.
We heard that this place gets busy, but we were quite fortunate when we came on a late Sunday afternoon at 2:00 and found plenty of parking, and the place half full. We walked in, took a laminated menu from the shelf and stared at it. Finally a worker walked up and asked if it was our first time, where we said yes. He explained its like a cafeteria. Grab a silver tray and head to the right of the queue for salad and soup, or go to the left for plated food, sandwiches or pizzas.
After looking at what they had, I decided to bear left and ordered a $10 plate, which consists of your protein + 2 sides. The menu posted above the station tells you what proteins they have.
I decided on:
-free range chicken (looked like 4oz serving) as my protein. Moist, and tender but not overwhelming with flavor
– Mac and cheese as one of my 2 sides. It was cheesy, gooey and oh so good! I would get again.
-A small cup of butternut squash. For a little cup, it was quite filling.
The entrees also comes with a slab of focaccia bread.
Stephen chose the barbecue beef sandwich which came with chips and he chose a garden tomato mozzarella salad as his side. He seemed to really enjoy it, and even commented the “house” diet cola he had was also excellent. He even went back to the bar for a refill.
We shared the vanilla bean cheesecake, which wasn’t very heavy. The filling was creamy and the graham cracker crust was nice and crumbly. The serving is definitely for 1 person, but 2 can share if they just want “a bite” of sweetness for dessert. However, I’m not sure if it’s $5 worthy.
There is a condiment station where you can get salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, hot sauces, balsamic vinegar (for the focaccia bread), chili sauces, and fixings for your coffee and tea.
Overall a great experience. The entree prices were reasonable, and more importantly portions are what we “should” be eating, not excessive eating. The food is served on proper plates and they use utensils, not plastic ware. They have staff to quickly bus your table, and there seems to be a flow of people coming in all the time.
It can be hard to find, so if you are coming off Barranca, find the Veggie Grill building, and it is located behind Peet’s Coffee. Look for the green awning and the word “U P” on it.