“Hey man, this place opened by our house that has $9 drinks that are all fresh juice and booze…you should come check it out,” was the text I got from my non-cocktail geek friend that lives in Aliso Viejo. Although my skeptic-o-meter was space-x rocket high, I was eager to hang out with a friend from old jobs past. We planned a bro-date and set out to see what budget drinks look like at a place called Urban Plates in Aliso, a new chain that brings locally sourced, cooked-from-scratch food and drinks to the table at surprisingly low prices.
Turns out, these drinks are fire. The concept is somewhat like jungle juice, with things like Blueberry Dream, Watermelon Rum Punch, and Trestles’ Sunset, but ultimately what’s in the glass is something that could be sipped pool-side in Vegas at 12-hour intervals.
The drinks are built around their fresh “replenisher” juice offerings, with organic rum, vodka, or tequila added, shaken over ice with a touch of simple syrup, and lightly garnished with fresh mint, berries, or citrus. Between the two of us, we went through the entire menu and couldn’t come up with a favorite as they were all equally refreshing, balanced, and delicious. Although with all the fresh fruit juice on hand, tiki drinks seem like a missed opportunity.
The restaurant is very non-traditional and difficult to explain. It’s sort of like a smorgasbord for millennials, where you walk in, grab a tray, and pick from a number of greens, sandwiches, soups, desserts, and full-on plates worthy of Instagram. Not only that, the low prices lure in a fair share of families, singles, and twenty-somethings. The person at the table next to us confessed he ate there at least three times a week.
In true bromance fashion, we split the mixed local beet salad while checking what’s playing at the local theater in the same parking lot. “Imagine two guys walking into ‘Fifty Shades Freed,’ ” I said, digging into the pile of greens surrounded by red and blonde marinated beets. “Oh man, let’s do it and heckle the screen,” says my friend, slicing into his perfectly-cooked chimichurri grass-fed steak, “this is all I ever get here,” he said.
In Orange County, the Aliso Viejo location is the first to get its full liquor license offering these juicy drinks. Irvine, Brea, and Tustin Marketplace locations serve local craft beer, wine, and craft soda. With so much local, quality food and drinks packaged in a quick-value format, is this a new dawn in dining culture? I sure hope so.
- 19th Hole – organic vodka, organic iced tea, organic lemonade, simple syrup with lemon and mint
- Trestles Sunset – tequila, organic O.J., orange bitters, with orange and mint
- Blueberry Dream – rum, blueberries, ginger, organic limeade, simple syrup, with blueberries and mint
- Shaken UP Margarita – tequila, organic lemonade, organic O.J., simple syrup, orange bitters, with salt and lemon
Urban Plates, Aliso Viejo is at 26661 Aliso Creek Road, Aliso Viejo // urbanplates.com