In many ways, Pasadena is like a suburb to Los Angeles, but that didn’t stop Urban Plates from opening up just a couple weeks ago, perhaps hoping to reacquaint the people of Pasadena with urban life. Of course, there turned out to be nothing urban about the place, which was more like a mix of Lemonade and Tender Greens than anything else, both of which have outposts a short walk from Urban Plates.
The concept is relatively simple – you can pick from a sandwich, salad or plate along a cafeteria-style line and each comes with a certain number of sides that you can pick from, which can be both hot and cold. The plate section was the busiest, presumably due to being the namesake of the restaurant and based on the bang for the buck it seemed to be the best as well. I went with this and picked steak for my plate, then went with mac and cheese and mashed potatoes for my sides. It also came with a piece of focaccia to round out the carbs.
I watched as the man behind the counter very accurately sliced and measured pieces of steak to ensure he got the right weight, but was a little troubled by how well done that steak was. Yet, when my plate arrived I marveled at the unvegan beauty of it all. I dug into the steak first and while it was certainly overcooked, it had just the right amount of seasoning and still retained a bit of juiciness, leading me to believe that if it were cooked right it would have been really nice. The mac and cheese was very good, being both creamy and full of good cheesy texture at the same time, and the mashed potatoes (with gravy thanks to the suggestion of the guy serving them up) were basic, but tasty.
While it was a little bit pricey compared to the typical work lunch, it was cheap for a plate of steak and sides. Thus, Urban Plates should have a bright future in attempting to find its niche in the super-competitive business district as long as it can figure out how to prepare steak correctly.