Courtesy of Lauren Conrad

Urban Plates, a trendy restaurant that originated in California and prides itself on wholesome meals plated right in front of you, opened up at The Mall at Columbia in Maryland. When I saw the advertising and checked out the menu online, I had to try it with my family. I already had my eyes on the roasted red potatoes and the chicken. Last night, my fiancé and I took the children.

When we arrived, an older gentleman greeted us with a warm welcome and instructed us on where we should stand in line. To my surprise, the restaurant was not “sit down,” but in the same vein as a Chipotle with broader options. There were three lines: a sandwich line, salad line and plated dinner line. I thought it would be a smooth process. It wasn’t. We all received trays, which were very reminiscent of my school days eating in the cafeteria. My fiancé went to the sandwich line, and the children and I went to the plated dinner line. All three of us stood in line for a good 15-minutes. The worker behind the counter cut my chicken and it sat there on the plate for 15-minutes while the man and woman in front of me waited for more brussel sprouts. By this time, my fiancé had already received his sandwich, paid for it and found a table for us. I continued to wait in line with my two children.

When it was finally time for us to receive our food, I discovered they were using heavy, glass dishes. My children received their macaroni and cheese in a glass bowl that was placed on a glass plate. This was a huge problem. The dishes slid all over the tray and almost onto the floor. I added my five-year old daughter’s dishes to my tray, and I tried to assist my son the best way I could while standing in line waiting to move forward and pay for our food. The workers didn’t seem comfortable with this model of service either. They seemed overwhelmed, irritated and not prepared for a Saturday-night dinner crowd. Thankfully, we made it through the line, with the assistance of my fiancé who returned to help me since my son’s dishes were sliding all over the tray, and I had my daughter’s plates and my own meal on one tray.

Courtesy of Lauren Conrad

Here’s what I like about the restaurant:

  • Great ambiance. I loved the atmosphere. The interior design was very clean and modern. The lighting was great for a Saturday night. The tables were comfortable.
  • The food was good. Although my chicken was cold by the time we made it through the line, the roasted red potatoes and the brussel sprouts were very delicious. The drinks were also good. I had the one with fresh ginger. I enjoyed it. My children seemed to enjoy the macaroni and cheese, bread and fruit.
  • The wait staff provided table service. Although the restaurant is set up like an upscale Chipotle when it comes to food distribution, I liked that the workers cleared our dishes and provided us with napkins and straws if we needed them.
  • The prices are decent. You get a healthy dinner for a minimal cost.
  • It’s a cute, trendy place to eat at with friends.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I didn’t like going through the “cafeteria line.” That model of service works for some establishments. I don’t think it works for Urban Plates. The staff couldn’t accommodate the demand and the food is cold by the time you make your way down the long line.
  • My fiancé thought the chips were too greasy. He wasn’t sold on the restaurant. He didn’t enjoy his steak sandwich. The steak was rare-to-medium, and he didn’t want to wait to have it cooked well done.
  • This is not a great place to bring kids. Unless you have extra sets of hands, don’t bring children under 10 to this restaurant. They will not be able to carry trays with heavy glass dishes, and it becomes cumbersome trying to get small children through the line with food.

Urban Plates is a cute, trendy idea, but I don’t know if it’ll work in Columbia, M.D. at the mall. The Mall at Columbia is a huge family attraction, and I don’t think this restaurant meets the needs of families. It’s a great place to go when it’s mom and dad’s night out, but if you’re thinking of dining here, leave the kids at home.

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