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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Urbana: Anaheim Packing District’s Newest Gem

We dined as a guest of Urbana

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It’s been awhile since I’ve headed up to Anaheim’s Packing District, the trendy food hall that opened in 2014. It’s not that I don’t enjoy many of the unique small restaurants there, but living in San Clemente, it’s a haul to drive for a casual meal. Last week’s opening of Urbana gave me a good excuse to make the trek for lunch though. And boy, am I glad I did.

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Arriving at noon on the dot, I was just ahead of the lunch crowd and had my pick of seating. I went for a table next to the bar with a full view of the restaurant. The décor is what I will call, “urban dia de los muertas” with artist Samir Evol’s murals figuring prominently in Urbana’s atmosphere. This cozy, colorful, creative space drew me in and set an expectation of what was to come.

The menu offers Mexican street food inspired dishes emphasizing fresh seafood… a refreshing departure from your typical rice and beans, dripping with sauce and cheese Mexican fare that I for the most part find too heavy.

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While I agonized over what to order, my server brought some of their warm homemade corn tortilla chips with guacamole. This creamy and slightly chunky guac, had the classic ingredients of lime, onion, cilantro, a little tomato, and a little Serrano chili for heat. What was unexpected were the toasted pumpkin seeds. It would have been so easy to fill up on this, but there were too many things on the menu I wanted to taste, so I controlled myself.

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Since the emphasis is on seafood, I started with The Chef’s Oysters, a half dozen freshly shucked oysters with salsa, cilantro, house made chili sauce, and lime garnish. These are topped with garlic butter shrimp, which lend a unique and filling element to this delicious start to a meal. For oyster fans, the oysters I tried were the Fanny Bays, but this appetizer will feature what is freshest and available at any given time.

Next, it wasn’t easy, but with seven tacos to choose from, I narrowed it down to three…

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First, the braised pork belly served in a soft blue corn tortilla. Rich and tender, the pork belly held its structure and was topped with pickled carrots and daikon adding crunch and a slightly acidic tang. This was balanced by the creamy cilantro aioli.

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Next, the Baja Cali was a crispy Tecate beer battered fish taco with pico, avocado, salsa, lemon aioli, and oh so thinly shredded cabbage for crunch that accented the deep fried fish. Was it the fish that was crunchy or the cabbage? I’m still not sure and so I will have to go back and order another. This is served on a homemade soft corn tortilla and was almost too perfect looking to eat. But somehow I managed.

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Finally, and oh my gosh, did I love this taco… the Gobernador with sautéed shrimp, Serrano chilies, salsa, grilled onions, and melted Oaxaca cheese. This is the melty cheese in their fundido appetizer… scheeeeese… melt me. At $5 per small taco, it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

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Stuffed as I was, Chef Ernie talked me into his bread pudding dessert, something I had been eyeing, so believe me it wasn’t difficult. It’s served with his gramma’s super secret, super incredibly delicious goat cheese cajeta sauce, aka dulce de leche, and a little ice cream. While for me, I was craving custardy bread pudding… that sauce. Can I please just have a spoon and a vat of it?

One thing that really struck me throughout my lunch was how thoughtful and well balanced each dish was. Though a wonderful lunch, my only regret was that I didn’t have a partner in crime with me so I could try more dishes.

A few items on my “must try next time” list include: The Al Pastor (crispy shaved pork shoulder) taco with pickled onions, queso fresco and chile de aceite sauce; The Mexican Cocktail of chilled shrimp, octopus, tomato juice and clam juice; The swordfish steak with green and yello zucchini, cremini mushroom, tomatillo chimichurri and seasonal greens on the dinner menu; On the dinner menu, the squid ink risotto with shrimp sautéed in garlic butter, Cotija cheese, orange segments, and edible flowers; And with dinner, next time a cocktail perhaps. With options such as Chapulin Colorado a concoction of Mexican brandy, fresa (strawberries), limon, and crickets and Born in East L.A. made with weeeskie, watermelon, limon, Tapatio, and ceviche tostada, to name but two, I am more than intrigued.

While some may criticize the smaller portions and price tag, for me, Urbana features good ingredients with fresh seafood and everything homemade, put together thoughtfully, hitting all the right notes. It’s easy to fill up when you’re satisfied with deliciousness.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen.

Urbana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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