The Restaurant Special – Urbana

Anaheim Packing District

Meet our new neighbor at the Anaheim Packing District – Urbana Anaheim! Urbana is best known for their Mexican street food concept with a focus on seafood. Their culture and flavor is from the belly of Mexico, Michoacan and Jalisco. They are a boutique restaurant, serving made to order dishes with fresh produce and ingredients. Urbana’s tortillas are prepared in house, fresh to order from non-GMO, gluten-free masa. Their salsas and sauces are house made.

We recently caught up with the owners, Javier and Andrea Cuadra, and Executive Chef, Ernie Alvarado, to learn more about this amazing restaurant!

This is Javier and Andrea Cuadra giving us a little background on Urbana.

Tell us about your restaurant? When did it open?
“Our soft opening was on August 1, 2015 at the Anaheim Packing District, but Thurs., Aug. 27, was our official grand opening! The mayor of Anaheim came out and we had a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. It was great! This is our first Urbana location. We call it our “boutique” location.”

How has the response been since you opened?
“We have had an amazing response! The customers really seem to enjoy our food and love our restaurant. It’s more than we expected!”

Why did you decide to open your restaurant at the Anaheim Packing District?
“This place is a “food mecca”. When we first learned of this location, we knew we wanted to be here. Part of our “interview” as tenants was to cook for the managers of the Packing House. Apparently we must’ve done well, because here we are today!”

How did this restaurant come about?
“My sister would write cookbooks, and for as long as I can remember, I always wanted to open up a restaurant. I worked in the restaurant business for many years in various capacities – as a server, bartender, etc. I worked from the ground up! I’m originally from Michaoacan, Mexico, and when I was 21 years old, I came here to study International Business. I eventually got into sales, then real estate, then importing produce from Mexico (strawberries). ”

How did you decide on your Executive Chef?
“Ernie and myself frequented the same places! He always served great food! I loved all of his dishes – everything from the chorizo meatballs and mussels, to the burgers! I knew that one day I would want to partner with him and open up a restaurant. I’ve known him for 9 years now, and knew that this was the right thing to do.”

What is your signature dish?
“Wow, that’s hard to say! If I had to choose one dish, I’d say ceviche! We are all about fresh seafood.”

Next we caught up with Chef Ernie Alvarado

Tell us about your background.
“I’ve been in the food industry for approximately 10 years now – 7 years in the kitchen. I’ve done everything from busser, food runner, server, dishwasher, prep, line cook at Air Restaurant (no longer in business), salad station and prep at Ambrosia, cook at Billy’s at the Beach, lead line cook and Sous Chef at Lola Gaspar, Chef at Mesa and now Executive Chef at Urbana. I’ve worked my way up in the business.”

Did you attend culinary school?
“No, I was too busy working! “I worked with a lot of great chefs, and that was my school”. Chefs like Jason Travis at Little Fork, Michael Pirossi at Ambrosia (now at The Ranch), and Luis Perez at Lola Gaspar. I learned so much from each of them!”

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing culinary school?
“Get your hands dirty. Put in the time and work for the best”.

What chef do you admire the most?
“I’d have to say Mike Doutt and Jason Travis. Mike is the one who brought me over to Mesa. He was the Chef di Cuisine at the time. Jason I admire because he’s a driver!”

How long has Urbana been in the works?
“I started talking with Javier about it 2 years ago. Javier has always appreciated my cooking and Urbana is a ceremony of food. We believe that food is an offering to loved ones, past and present.”

What is your favorite dish to cook?
“I’d have to say mussels, although they aren’t on the menu yet here at Urbana. Every month we’ll rotate the menu based on the season. We’ll always have a seafood & Mexican theme, but the dishes will change.”

What are your future plans?
“I’d love to own a restaurant one day!”