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Urban Eatery

Posted by Robyn Urback / Reviewed on August 25, 2011 / review policy

Urban EateryUrban Eatery is the swanky new food court (just don't call it that) opening September 1 as part of the Eaton Centre's $120 million revitalization. Needless to say, with a price tag that high, one would certainly expect a little shine. And that's exactly what I saw as I toured the almost-finished space as part of a media preview; a spaced swathed with glass, stainless steel, marble and natural wood.

Urban EateryThe upgraded and much-enhanced look wasn't entirely shocking--after all, it's tough not to improve on red fluorescents and grid flooring. But the real surprise was that Urban Eatery is not simply a glorified mecca of KFC, McDonald's, A&W and other fast-food chain restaurants. They're there of course, if only to satiate your Grampa Burger cravings, but so too are some local Toronto favourites, in express form for the first time.

Urban EateryThe centre island hosts vegan Urban Herbivore, a Kensington Market staple, along with Big Smoke Burger (formerly Craft), offering its gourmet burgers in a *food court* instead of King Street. Also occupying the island is Liberty Noodle, an extension of one of my personal favourite Japanese restaurants in Liberty Village, and Crepe Delicious/Froshberg Gelato, which will be offering fresh, daily-made gelato (squeee!) and sweet and savoury crepes.

Urban EateryAmong the other pleasantly surprising restaurants at Urban Eatery is Rare, Amaya, Fast Fresh, and Aroma Espresso, which juxtaposes with the unavoidable Subway chain, Jimmy the Greek, and New York fries. There are 24 restaurants in total, and space for 900 people to sit and dig in.

Urban EateryAnd speaking of seating, the uniform green and beige chairs are long gone, replaced with various options including Danish-designed red molded plastic chairs, wire chairs, and high-backed, which are pulled up to bars, long wooden tables, and white circular tables with brushed metal bases. Disposable packaging, for the most part, has all but been replaced, with plastic plates, cups, mugs, and bowls, as well as real cutlery that will take up the slack.

Urban EateryThe shift to reusable dishes means there are no garbage receptacles in Urban Eatery. Yeah, I didn't get it at first too. Instead, there are five manned food-tray collection stations where customers bring their trays for staff to staff separate materials. They are then wheeled to the scullery, where an enormous energy-efficient dishwasher washes dishes and food waste is put through a solid waste compactor, which is said to reduce output from 50 bags of garbage to one or two bags of pulp. There are also two hand-washing stations for the public right on the floor, as well as totally new bathrooms and a nursing room with intercom security.

Urban EateryFor all of the fancy new d├ęcor and restaurant-style seating, my favourite physical feature of Urban Eatery was most certainly the most inconspicuous. That is, the little purse hooks under many of the raised tables. There you have it folks--millions of dollars in a renovation overhaul, and I can't get over the little metal thing that keeps my purse off the floor. It's the details, I guess.

Urban Eatery really does seem like a healthy (pun intended) diversion from the typical mall food court, and it's great to see local Toronto options getting some wider exposure. Of course, we'll have to see how Urban Herbivore's sesame tempeh holds up the virulent Double Down.

Urban Eatery by the numbers:

  • Size: 45,000+ sq ft
  • Seats: 900
  • Restaurants: 24
  • Tray collection stations: 5
  • Hand-washing stations: 2
  • Dishes in circulation: 100,000+
  • Glasses in circulation: 20,000+
  • Food waste reduction: up to 88%

Photos by Jesse Milns



fingers crossed / August 25, 2011 at 01:26 pm
As long as we can keep out the majority of the teenaged thugs that flock to that mall to loiter and vandalize, then this place has potential.
Steve replying to a comment from fingers crossed / August 25, 2011 at 01:58 pm
This ain't Cleveland, homie.

People that don't look like you and are centuries younger /= thug
Marty Chase / August 25, 2011 at 02:04 pm
Everyone knows the sketchy people hang OUTSIDE of the mall
mike replying to a comment from Steve / August 25, 2011 at 02:13 pm
Don't impose your biases on anyone else. He said "teenaged thugs" he didn't mention anything about what they look like. If you don't think there teenage thugs in the eaton center you've either never been there or you're dumber than you've already made yourself seem.

As for fingers crossed - don't count on it amigo.
moii / August 25, 2011 at 02:43 pm
good article! i'm excited. as for the above comments. ya'll wastemen.
Betty Day / August 25, 2011 at 02:48 pm
Nursing room! That's fabulous. As a new mom I braved the Eaton's Centre for the first time after my baby was born a few months ago and was shocked at how mom-&-baby-unfriendly it was.

After entering at the Queen street entrance with a stroller, I was told the only washrooms with changing tables were in Sears where they have 'family washrooms'. After crossing the Centre the only one I could find was occupied for a suspiciously long time. Luckily I found a changing table in a regular washroom in Sears.

In order to get between floors there were only two elevators working (one was in Sears), meaning that I had to go way out of my way to get between floors and then wait in a line-up of other moms and strollers.

I'm okay with nursing in public but it is nice to nurse baby in a quiet place (I settled for a bench under one of the escalators at the Dundas end of the Centre). The family room at Yorkdale is awesome.

Dude Mcgee / August 25, 2011 at 03:00 pm
Sorry, but Liberty Noodle is TERRIBLE and overpriced
robert / August 25, 2011 at 03:03 pm
a polished turd is still a turd.

nice polish job.
Stenson! / August 25, 2011 at 03:12 pm
As long as we can keep out the majority of the old-fogey bloggers that flock to BlogTO to complain and generalize, then this place has potential.

..also, why did Craft Burger change it's name?
y replying to a comment from Dude Mcgee / August 25, 2011 at 03:26 pm
Don't be sorry, Liberty Noodle is TERRIBLE!!!

I went there for the first time a couple months ago because I've always been intrigued, but it was a huge mistake. My pan fried noodles were flavourless and it came out really slow despite there being only a few other patrons. My friend's dumplings were cold and his ramen noodles were worst then most pre-packaged kinds. There is no way those are fresh. Never again!
Yep replying to a comment from fingers crossed / August 25, 2011 at 03:33 pm
To keep the tuggish teens out, just play classical music.
Yep replying to a comment from Stenson! / August 25, 2011 at 03:35 pm
".also, why did Craft Burger change it's name?"

To stay one step ahead of Craft Fat Burger on Augusta who tried to ride on their coattails...
foodog / August 25, 2011 at 03:43 pm
they have this concept at carrefour laval works just fine....and nice way to grab a quick bite....and so good for keeping waste to a min.!
yep / August 25, 2011 at 03:53 pm
Some people are gonna steal the dishes, but whatever.
Amanda / August 25, 2011 at 03:53 pm
Does anyone else think that this, handing people your plate to sort food, thing will blow up in their faces? Imagine a Saturday afternoon at Eaton's Center, and all those stations filled with half eaten food on plates...?
Isecondthat! replying to a comment from Amanda / August 25, 2011 at 04:01 pm
They have minimum waged people in there trying to clean up after people? Not going to going very well.

They have this same kind of thing at IKEA in their restaurants and the place looks like Goderich after a tornado blew through.
JR / August 25, 2011 at 04:02 pm
Does this mean they'll finally have to stop being snarky to non-vegans at Urban Herbivore? It'll be tough to wryly say "Nice bag" to every woman that comes in with a leather purse at the Eaton Centre.....
rek / August 25, 2011 at 04:59 pm
I've been wondering when non-disposable foodware would make an appearance in North American fast food chains. My first experience with it was at a Burger King in Seoul in 2006 and I immediately realized what a great idea it is.
seanm / August 25, 2011 at 06:22 pm
I'm all in favour of reducing waste through reusable dishes, but what if somebody wants to take their meal to go or back to work? Will they still offer takeout containers?

If environmental friendliness is the platform the EC would like to push, they could offer a biodegradable option.
Roger / August 25, 2011 at 08:13 pm
What do you mean, the "north" end of the Eaton Centre. I thought the food courts were on the east and west ends. Which side is getting the makeover?
JR replying to a comment from Roger / August 25, 2011 at 08:43 pm
The Eaton Centre runs north-south. There's one food court at Queen (i.e. the south end) and one food court at Dundas (i.e. the north end).
JJ / August 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm
yeah people are going to come downtown to steal a friggin plate. lol some people need to think before they type. and as of right now, i dont see any "thug teens" trashing the current food court, but now that there is a new foodcourt coming soon, people in here are saying they will trash the new one. some of you people are just too funny.
Bob / August 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm
Why does KFC look like an Adidas store?
GABE / August 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm
Thats an amazing KFC, glad you made it in the redesign. KFC I LOVE YOU!
Meera / August 25, 2011 at 11:12 pm
Urban Herbivore!!!

That is all.
Es replying to a comment from robert / August 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm
So accurate Robert.
liz / August 26, 2011 at 01:54 am
will working in the eaton centre actually become bearable?!

not likely - still, im excited to not have to pick between mcd's and wendy's! YAY NEW THINGS!
TexSquared / August 26, 2011 at 10:22 am
Everything looked nice until the very last picture. Bourbon St. Grill (the Americans know it as Kelly's Cajun Grill -- the "bourbon chicken samples" people). Junk Chinese crap passing itself off as Cajun. Might as well serve sushi at the Mexican booth and BBQ ribs at the vegetarian restaurant while they're at it.
BurgerBabe replying to a comment from Stenson! / August 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm
Craft Burger changed their name because they wanted to expand and trademark their name. Craft Restaurants is already owned and trademarked by Tom Colicchio (who is also a judge on Top Chef) so they had to change their name to something new.
jb / August 27, 2011 at 05:12 pm
Looks like the same crappy restaurants, only packaged differently. Fast Fresh? McDonald's is better and cheaper.
val replying to a comment from jb / August 27, 2011 at 05:55 pm
+1 to "Looks like the same crappy restaurants, only packaged differently."
same expensive fast food even more overpriced now
Dee / August 27, 2011 at 06:13 pm
As a new mom, I'm happy that they have included a nursing room in The Eaton Centre. It's about time the mall became more family friendly.
nrd / August 28, 2011 at 06:02 pm
They should have called it The Eatin' Centre.

I'm here all week! Try the pork.
Sarah. replying to a comment from Dee / August 28, 2011 at 09:14 pm
Yes the more nursing rooms the better. There's a nursery room you can use in Thyme Maternity and there's a few rooms in Sears at the kids department
Sarah. replying to a comment from Dee / August 28, 2011 at 09:14 pm
Yes the more nursing rooms the better. There's a nursery room you can use in Thyme Maternity and there's a few rooms in Sears at the kids department
Jeff replying to a comment from liz / August 28, 2011 at 09:19 pm
ITS JUST ANOTHER OPTION PEOPLE!!! Get off your ass and look around if you don't like it. There are tons of restaurants at the dundas square mall, up yonge st., along dundas there's plenty of choice in the area unless you're a mall rat
Sasha / August 28, 2011 at 09:21 pm
Can't believe y'all have so much to say about a friggin food court. Y'all got some pent up aggression.If you don't like the options you can bring your lunch or dinner you know. Unless your too lazy for that too...
bongo45 / August 29, 2011 at 01:18 pm
Their ad in the Metro says "Join the Urban Food Movement" and comes across as something that it's not.

A polished turd is still a turd, yea, I'd have to agree with that.
Louis replying to a comment from fingers crossed / September 1, 2011 at 06:23 pm
You have to be extremely ignorant to pait all teens with the same brush. Most teens are respectful individuals and they certainly are not thugs. Of course there are teenagers who are thugs, but that doesn't mean that people should assume that all teens are. How would you like it if people assumed that you were a thug because another adult individual committed a crime.
Gabe / September 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm
Was still a good time!! no matter what you say. I brought home $30 worth of food for nothing... who's complaining?
Gabe / September 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm
Good Eats!!!!
CG / September 2, 2011 at 10:09 am
This is great news! Specifically, the re-useable dishes. Food courts in the UK have been doing this for years. Works well, better for the environment, and more civilized than eating from plastic or Styrofoam.

seanm: I'm sure they'll have sustainable take-out options well...
Friar Canuck / September 2, 2011 at 10:27 am
Someone please tell me Arby's is still there. There is times when I really need to get my Beef N' Cheddar/Curly Fries on. Or is this the other food court?
charalique / September 4, 2011 at 12:45 am
i was at the eaton centre today and because the other food court (queen street side) and the mcd's on that same level are closed off for renovations it was SOOOO busy!

the sheer volume of people just made me walk on through and i ended up eating elsewhere.

it does look like a nice upgrade and i definitely like the idea of reusable plates, etc to lessen waste.

i'm hoping smoke burger is just as good as the original location on king west :)
charalique replying to a comment from Friar Canuck / September 4, 2011 at 12:47 am
sorry...i didn't see it :(
Jh / September 6, 2011 at 11:35 pm
I was glad to see them using reusable plates before I found a chewing gum in my plate. I got a bowl of noodle @ Thai express. A white chewing gum that somebody had chewed was found in my bowl. Bf brought the bowl and the gum to the store and what they said is it might have come with the plates as they all share same plates. Not sure this is true or just Thai express is gross but I am never coming back.
Sheila / September 8, 2011 at 04:09 pm
Love the new look, and "thank you" for the free lunch on Sept 8th, it was delicious!!!
Jenny / September 14, 2011 at 10:11 am
I think they needed more seating. Went there and it was a zoo.
Great idea about the reusable plates but yeah, people are going to steal them.
I think it's good that they created more jobs by having manned tray disposal stations. There are worse jobs for the same pay (minimum wage) and who knows, maybe they are getting more then that.
I used one of the hand washing stations, it is poorly designed. The sink is too small and should have been made into a trough like basin. The way the water comes out you have to have your hands on the upper edge of the sink and water inevitably splashes out of the sink. I can just see how much water is going to get everywhere and onto the floor. Next you will have people doing the slip and sue.
Jenny replying to a comment from Friar Canuck / September 14, 2011 at 10:13 am
As far as I know they took it out before the renovations :( Much to my horror. Now there is only Sheppard Centre and I think Yorkdale Mall for Arbys! Why oh why do people not like that place?!
John / September 17, 2011 at 01:28 pm
Rude service at Aroma Espresso Bar. After paying over $20 for coffee and pa cake, needed to ask for an extra plastic fork. The attendent purposefully ignored me. So ridiculous.

TexSquaredSUX / October 13, 2011 at 12:24 am
TexSquared is such a douche on every food board. Childish tirades with his meaningless blabbering. Give it up dumb ass!
KrisM / October 19, 2011 at 01:45 pm
FitforLife is a good option. Breakfast for 2$ till 12pm... And lunch for 5-6$...
Next to eaton centre... On TTC Dundas station...
John69 / February 14, 2012 at 11:35 am
it's too expensive. and their price keeps growing. Before i could get a classic burger with fries and drink for $10. now that is just a dream!
donna / June 23, 2012 at 01:24 pm
hey, at what floor is the Urban Eatery in?
jeffreyJ / November 27, 2012 at 03:43 pm
I've been a long time consumer of Jimmy the Greek. Now let me tell you this location at Eaton Center is absolutely terrible. From all of the Jimmy locations out there - this location is night and day in comparison. For one - their chicken is extremely dry and has a chemical added to the chicken in order to preserve it, this causes for little seems of black seems in the chicken (check it out yourself). From the rice to potatoes it's not properly cooked nor taste good and clearly, their gyro is outdated at all times (it smells). I'm not an uptight person by any means. I had one bad experience at this location but I decided to give it another chance one week later and BAM - it was even worse. I kid you not! I'm hoping to put this out there for them to fix the problem, as I looove my greek food!

Hayley Webb / January 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm
I went to Mc Donald's and for the first time met the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life, like MUI INFUEGO! I gave her my number but I haven't gotten a response if you guys ever meet a worker named Cassandra please tell her "Your boyfriend wants you to call him" Thank you for your time and would appreciate all the help I can get with my torn heart.
charizard replying to a comment from JR / December 2, 2013 at 01:01 pm
Yeah, cause that totally happens...
tyler replying to a comment from nrd / February 27, 2014 at 05:52 pm
Cute. I made that 'Eatin' Centre' pun on my Saturday Night Dive page years and years ago. I'm sure you are here all week, lol.

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