La Urbana

Another restaurant to open on the Divisadero corridor in 2013 was La Urbana, a whimsically decorated eatery serving up local and organic Mexican food. The lit up Frieda Kahlo that decorates the outside of the building and the meticulously old-fashioned and brightly decorated interior immediately got my attention during its initial construction. However, I was also a bit skeptical about how this chic and trendy restaurant had a similar tagline (“local, organic, and sustainable Mexican kitchen) as one of my favorite neighborhood dining spots, which is a mere 5 blocks away. Prior to dining here, I had also heard some substandard reviews saying that the food was too salty and too pricey. I decided to test the rationality of these reviews by trying the food myself. The verdict: I thought it was pricey, but also really tasty! Even though Nopalito and Urbana both serve Mexican food, the flavors and presentation of the dishes greatly differ. At Urbana, the chefs emphasize presentation by arranging the food in fun geometric patterns, use a lot of colorful foods, such as cheddar broccoli and purple cauliflower, and also serve the food on fun tableware. Everything about this place is photogenic!

The waitstaff started off our meal by offering us the cutest thumb-sized mugs of watermelon-flavored agua fresca with a chile blend lining the lip of the mug. Since this was only two small sips and non-alcoholic, we also went ahead and shared a craft of crimson sangria.

We had to laugh at some of the intricacies of the menu descriptions such as the plancha de avocado purée, pico de gallo, yuca chips, which is a ostensibly an ornamental way of saying guacamole and chips.

The star items on the menu at La Urbana are the seafood items, which is what makes this spot differ from most other Mexican eateries in the city, including Nopalito. We took advantage of this fact and ordered aguachile ceviche, cast iron scallops, and grilled octopus. While incorporating local ingredients such as squash blossoms and kale, it also included distinct Mexican flavors, such as huitlacoche. I recommend coming here with an abstemious appetite, sharing a bunch of different bites with a few friends, and enjoying the congenial atmosphere.