I’m absolutely thrilled to try something new: an activity, a city, or even a route to work. So, when planning an evening with an old friend, I Googled and Yelped in an attempt to go somewhere neither of us has ever been. The mission was a success, because I ended up at a place that wasn’t even officially open yet: Urban Eats.
3414 Washington Ave.
The Washington Ave. locale wears a few hats: it’s a market, cafe, bar, and fine dining restaurant—plus, it’s a music venue on the weekends. I got the grand tour when I ventured in, beginning by bypassing the half-empty shelves of the market and heading straight to the pastry case. I asked for a menu, planning to sit at one of the many empty diner-style booths or high-top tables when the cashier asked me if I’d like to go upstairs.
The second floor feels much more like a restaurant than the downstairs market area. There’s a rectangular bar and nice tables, with a deck overlooking the downtown skyline. Only half the menu was available—a way to ease in the new kitchen crew—but the signature sliders were up for grabs and the bartender couldn’t seemed to put into words how much she loved all of them, so that seemed foolproof.
The sliders were indeed delicious. I had the Brasserie variety with slow-cooked beef cheeks in a red wine and balsamic reduction. The meat was tender and flavorful, served on a rosemary garlic roll with ooey-gooey Camembert cheese. It was so good, I now understand why my enthusiastic server could not iterate the sliders' deliciousness.
Though Urban Eats is firmly in its soft-opening state, a woman sitting nearby told me she was already a regular at Urban Eats—the staff knew her by name. She'd come almost every day for a glass of wine and the delicious tomato soup, she said. Meanwhile, a passerby raved about the fries, which I ordered with my sliders and can now confirm are both crispy and plentiful.
The staff was friendly, albeit confused about how I found out about the restaurant—I explained to them of the power of Yelp—and there were more staffers than patrons at one point. Additionally, none of the bar taps were hooked up yet, so the tap handles sat there tempting me to return when the beer would be flowing.
Although attending Urban Eats during its soft open was technically a mistake, nothing else was. It was a fun, friendly neighborhood place, possibly because of the small group of visitors, but—more likely—it’s the spot’s impermeable M.O.