Along the creaky, wooden floors of the Anaheim Packing House, the fierce battle of aromas is as loud as a car-stereo competition. The resounding smells of bubble tea clashing with the concerto of steamy hot pot is almost as notorious as the popcorn-and-pleather combo you’re faced with when you stroll into the average Target.
Walking down the steps to the lower level, the undeniable smell of elote—the sweet corn, funky cotija cheese and a citrus zing—draws me to URBANA for cocktails and modern Mexican food.
URBANA, which just celebrated its third birthday, has that Harry Potter Privet Drive sort of feel. Tucked tidily underneath the stairs, the train car-sized dining room makes it easy to tune out the outside world and focus on what’s important during this cuffing season: who you’re with and what’s going into your mouth. The space is bar-focused and bright with details, yet also dimly romantic.
Chef Ernie Alvarado’s menu is approachable from multiple angles. Craving Mexican classics? They’re here, all with subtle modern twists, such as the aforementioned elote ($6) served quarter-cobbed and slathered in citrus-aioli goodness and red Mexican pixie dust. Going for gastropub munchies? They’re here as well, including the expected Brussels sprouts ($9), but with chorizo and crumbled Cotija. I can honestly see myself eating through the entire menu.
Then there’s the URBANA burger ($18). I can’t say I’ve ever had a burger inside the actual Anaheim Packing House or at a Mexican restaurant, but holy hell. The URBANA burger is that perfect mind-meld of an evil genius. A thick, juicy, grass-fed patty is topped with ooey-gooey, melted Oaxacan cheese and chorizo and sandwiched by a hearty bun with peppery arugula—it’s easily the best burger in downtown Anaheim. The Lincoln Log-like fries are a nice touch, as is the blistered-shishito sidecar.
It’s no surprise the bar menu matches the food in every aspect. Take a classic cocktail, then add one part modern twist and two parts Mexican personality. The Mexi-Cillan ($12), “a Hidalgo nod to a penicillin,” perfectly pairs with the intensity of the URBANA burger, which is a fairly astute endeavor. The classic penicillin uses a nice blended scotch to round out the booze and smokey Laphroaig to float on top, giving it that telltale 1970s band-aid note.
URBANA’s Mexi-twist uses tequila to do the heavy lifting and a Mezcal float to bring out the smokey vibe. Mexican amaro adds a touch of bitter complexity, and ginger plays a pretty big role in this Gilligan’s Island inspiration of a drink.
Sample URBANA’s carnitas taco—and maybe wash it down with a refreshing aguachile michelada—during the Anaheim Packing House’s World Taste event next Wednesday! For ticket info, visit anaheimpackingdistrict.com/worldtaste.
URBANA at the Anaheim Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 502-0255; urbanaanaheim.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.