Photo by Colleen Barrett
Walking in to Urban Plates, the bright oranges, reds, yellows and greens of the fresh produce behind the ordering counter catch customers’ eyes as they contrast the dim lighting and neutral decor of the rustic, yet modern setting of the restaurant.
Urban Plates, a San Diego, Calif. based fast-casual chain that promotes healthy eating, recently began opening up locations on the East Coast starting with Tysons Galleria in July 2018 and then Columbia Mall in August 2018. In the first few months of 2019, a location will open in Montgomery Mall, a convenient place for RHS students to grab a bite to eat when out shopping.
Although the Urban Plates in Montgomery Mall is not yet open, they have already established a presence there by opening a job application center in a vacant store outside of the food court, giving mall goers an opportunity to find work with the company.
The mission of Urban Plates is “to use the best ingredients possible to create wholesome, delicious food that’s prepared before our guests’ eyes just the way they want it,” according to their website. “Our hope is that by making real food prepared by real chefs accessible to everyone in a convenient, comfortable setting we can empower anyone interested in making better food choices to be a bit healthier, happier and hopeful about the future.”
And they do just that. Upon arrival, the staff is welcoming and willing to help. Customers are greeted by a worker and asked whether or not they have been to the restaurant before as the ordering style is untraditional. Menus are displayed over the ordering counter where the food is prepared behind a glass showcase and smaller print copies are available at the start of the line for those less familiar with the layout.
“[My favorite part about working at Urban Plates] is meeting new people and interacting with them face to face, because it is a lot of interaction,” cashier Mauro Daras said at the Tysons location. “When you’re here you interact with the chefs and the cooks when you get to customize your food and make it the way you want it.”
The menu is seasonal, provides options for both lunch and dinner and currently consists of different salads and proteins. There are also numerous sides and soups that can be ordered alone or accompany a bigger meal.
Once a meal is chosen, the customer orders directly with the chef who will begin preparing it using sustainably sourced, organic ingredients. Unlike other over-the-counter restaurants, at Urban Plates, customers can see the meat being grilled and the vegetables being chopped– they aren’t pre-prepared. Produce is local, the beef is grass-fed and the chicken is free-range.
The Asian chicken salad, which costs $11.95, consists of a lettuce blend, arugula, grilled chicken, carrots, green onions, oranges, spicy roasted peanuts, crispy wontons, red bell peppers, cilantro and spicy peanut dressing. While the combination of vegetables, fruits and nuts may seem odd, the flavor of the sweet oranges accents the spicy dressing well and the various vegetables provide for a crisp, crunchy texture.
“I like Urban Plates because it’s different from other chains with somewhat similar goals. Places like Cava and Honeygrow are the two healthier fast food places that come to mind, but they don’t offer anything that different. Urban Plates is almost an experience,” junior Patrice Bilodeau said.
While prices are a bit steeper than typical fast food, the generous portions and high quality make up for it. Prices start at $9.95 for a meal with two sides and a slice of grilled bread, $9.95 for salads, $8.95 for sandwiches and $9.95 for braise bowls.
Urban Plates offers students the opportunity to make healthier food choices while still enjoying their dining experience, a concept foreign to many. With a location coming in Montgomery Mall, students should take advantage of this unique restaurant.