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Pleasant Hill’s Urban Plates: Fast-Casual Slow Food

Dec 26, 2017 02:33PM ● Published by Fran Miller

Those who adhere to practices within the slow food movement might find Urban Plates to be the definition of an oxymoron. The self-described ‘fast casual’ restaurant in Pleasant Hill allows guests to quickly and easily select their meals, and dine in a relaxed atmosphere. But that’s where the fast-casual definition ends. The food, ingredients, and preparation at Urban Plates are anything but rushed, and the vibe, though earthy and relaxed, is a bit elevated in relation to others in this particular dining genre. Urban Plates cuisine is prepared fresh daily, on-premises from scratch with ingredients sourced from within 20 minutes of the restaurant. They even make their own mayonnaise. 

With 12 locations throughout California (the Pleasant Hill location is adjacent to the movie theaters on Crescent Plaza) Urban Plates hangs its chef’s hat on a fundamental philosophy of investing in food quality. Owners Saad Nadhir and John Zagara (two food industry veterans) display their commitment and passion for quality by eliminating additives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives. Entrees include grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, line-caught seafood, hand-tossed salads, hand-carved sandwiches, hot and cold sides, braises and soups, decadent desserts and natural organic juice Replenishers.

Urban Plates dubs its approach to dining as “culinary theater” where seeing is believing. All menu items are displayed front and center in a line-up format where guests can pick and chose precisely what goes on their plate. Interaction with the behind-the-counter chefs is encouraged; each will happily describe exactly how a dish is prepared and with which ingredients. A bounty of fresh produce heads the line, then the sandwich bar, followed by hot and cold sides, proteins, braises and stews, and pizzettes. And if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, look out for the dessert case in which a host of house made tarts, pies, cakes, cookies, and cupcakes are sure to tempt. Local craft beers, regional wines, and assorted natural sodas, teas, and organic coffees round out the offerings.

All items are fresh, delicious, and satisfying. The colorful Chicken Cobb salad, for instance, features a lettuce blend, tender and juicy grilled free range chicken, organic tomatoes, crisp turkey bacon, avocado, organic egg, blue cheese, and buttermilk dill dressing. Plates include a choice of protein and two sides (from more than a dozen options, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, mac n’ cheese, rainbow carrots and golden beets, and roasted rosemary potatoes) with chargrilled rustic bread. A fan favorite is the Turkey Meatloaf coated with a house made bbq sauce. Sustainable Oven Baked Salmon is topped with a honey mustard sauce. Braises and Stews, such as the Braised Beef and Mushrooms slow cooked with red wine sauce, onions and organic carrots, include a choice of organic brown or white rice. These are dishes that feed the soul as well as the body – just as intended by Urban Plates NorCal Regional Chef Robert Buycks whose passion for food began during childhood when he would spend time in the kitchen with his grandmother. His culinary influences are inspired by his time living in Louisiana, Texas, and California; his favorite cooking styles include Creole, Cajun, Tex-Mex and…..good old-fashioned Soul Food.  

Urban Plates, 60 Crescent Dr. Pleasant Hill, (925) 378-5919


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