Urban Plates, the self-described “farm-to-table” cafeteria from the Del Mar neighborhood of San Diego, serves a very respectable turkey meatloaf. It's even better when you get it with a side of sautéed broccolini while it's still hot from the pan and a scoop of mashed potato that's almost as good as Tender Greens over at the Irvine Spectrum.
Since this Irvine outlet opened about a month ago, the line forms early and quick for hot meals cooked in an actual stoves behind the servers, and sold for a reasonable price point of $10. The concept isn't new. Lemonade at Fashion Island, and as I mentioned, Tender Greens at the Spectrum came to OC first. But I think a friend put it best when he described this new breed of eateries as “Yuppie Boston Markets.”
Perhaps the single best reason to queue up with the yuppies at Urban Plates is the mango tart–a pastry that sells for a slightly exorbitant $5 a slice, but is still kind of worth it. The crust is a shortbread-like, dense and crumbly thing about twice the thickness of what you'd find in a pumpkin pie. This is slathered with a layer of smooth custard, then mangoes arranged like petals on a flower. Together it forms an amazing dessert.
I've not tasted mangoes this ripe, juicy and sugary since the last time I had it with sticky rice at a Thai restaurant. You might as well shell out $30 for the whole tart. As a yuppie, you can afford it.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.