A tidy room with a view of the water heater atop a divider - illustrates the kind of construction chic decor at the Urban Bistro Market downtown. You could be downtown in SoHo, Georgetown or Pacific Heights, where this sort of minimalist ductwork decor suggests a definite departure from the excesses of the '80s.
The no-frills approach continues with an entire wall accessorized by the stainless steel and glass commercial refrigeration unit. But the tidy jars and crates of ingredients inside seem to underscore the restaurant's penchant for fresh preparations. In contrast to the spare design, freshly pressed linens top the dining tables and orders are delivered by a smiling server after you stand in line at the counter to state your preferences.Preferring to catch dinner at the Bistro poses another problem: Private parties sometimes take over the space for the evening, eliminating public access to unknowing folks who stop by and find the door closed. Actually, summer hours cancel dinner altogether and thus avoid the confusion encouraged by the irregular winter/spring schedules. Carry-out is available at anytime and often serves as a quick pick-up for dinner after work, though the 4 p.m. closing hour seems curious if most of the work force adheres to a 5 p.m. shift.
Though the hours may bring some confusion, there's nothing puzzling about the straightforward and interesting menus former Al Forno chef Rick Esparza fashions for lunch. Eclectic in emphasis, Esparza expands the dining options with gourmet-inspired touches like the Homemade Sausage of the Day ($6.95). We sampled a lean, pungent blend of chicken, rosemary and gorgonzola cheese that was a feast of flavor, while the chopped salad ($4.95) proves an engaging take on chicken options - the bird roasted and blended with provolone, chopped veggies and a lightly oiled but stoutly flavored citrus vinaigrette.
The chicken tamales ($6.00) feature a combination of rather ordinary mole, with spunky tomatillo sauce and a pizzazy pairing of black beans and rice. An unusual vegetable terrine ($5.50), a stacking of roasted squashes, peppers and fresh basil seeps with gorgonzola cheese and a basil-laced tomato sauce. A grouping of sandwiches feature stuffings like green chilies, avocado salsa, herb cream cheese and turkey, a slow-roasted BBQ beef brisket with jalapeno accented sauce or the hearty Urban Burger ($5.50), garnished with green chilies, caramelized onions and whole-grain mustard.
Desserts are all made on the premises and include New York cheesecake, creme brulee, chocolate chip cheesecake, biting espresso pecan pie and a creamy, rich ricotta.
Unusually interesting creations summarize the menu at the Urban Bistro. The trick lies in arriving at the proper hour to partake of the diverse possibilities, either to carry out or dine in.