Urban Diner, New American cuisine at Joy City, Shanghai

Jun 30, 2016

Urban Diner is the latest instalment of restaurants in Shanghai, whose menu have been created by Chefs Anna Bautista and Sean Jorgensen of Blue Plate Consulting.

Located slightly out of the way at Joy City, north of Nanjing East Rd, Urban Diner is housed on the top floor of the mall with an impressive view of the iconic ferris wheel.

Sticking true to their roots, the menu at Urban Diner is new American cuisine. The vibe is kept casual, as hinted by the diner name.

Nice outdoor seating
Nice outdoor seating


The restaurant boasts a fully sheltered patio area, which I thoroughly enjoyed during my visit on a rain day, and gives one a lovely view of the massive ferris wheel.


The interior is chic, with solid black wooden chairs against light colored wood panels and tables. Somehow I got an Al’s Diner vibe (also consulted by the dynamic duo). That said, the space is well designed, tables are amply sized and spaced apart.

If only all diners looked like this
If only all diners looked like this

On my day of visit, an audio system was set up in the middle of the restaurant, I’m assuming that was a temporary placement, if not it would actually be quite awkward.  8/10


Service was prompt and courteous. Free flow coffee was served with the brunch menu, and the servers would ask me automatically if I had wanted a refill. Food arrived promptly within 10-15mins. The owner came over occasionally to check if everything was alright. Nice. 8/10


I’ve been very impressed with the works of Anna Bautista and Sean Jorgensen before, hence that was my main driving point to travel to Urban Diner on a rainy day. Ok, that, and the photos that I saw looked amazing.

I took an outdoor seat, contemplating about the meaning of life, sipping away at my Americano while I watched the raindrops fall against the towering ferris wheel.

Chicken and Waffles
Chicken and Waffles

Fried Chicken and Waffles (68 rmb)

I started with the fried chicken on waffles, which came with a special maple gochujang sauce. (Ignore the menu, it was erroneously printed)

The batter of the chicken was remarkably light and crispy. Pieces of chicken tenders were used, instead of parts. The meat must have been brined before, because they were well seasoned and juicy. Paired with the slightly salty, sweet and spicy gochujang maple syrup concoction, it wasn’t long before I wondered where my chicken went.

Beautiful, just beautiful
Beautiful, just beautiful

The waffle had similar qualities of the chicken! Super light and crispy. It was, one of the best waffles I’ve had in Shanghai by far. Most of the waffles that I’ve had in Shanghai were either soft and chewy or hard and dense. The waffles here at Urban Diner resembled an airy shell that cracked apart when cut into.

My new benchmark for chicken and waffles
My new benchmark for chicken and waffles

My only complaint was that maybe I could use abit more chicken, I had half a waffle left when I finished my chicken, but maybe, that is just me. I also kind of missed the umami crunch of chicken skin which I often associate with fried chicken. 8.5/10

Farmers Breakfast Skillet
Farmers Breakfast Skillet

Farmers Breakfast Skillet (88 rmb)

When I visited the states, I often had breakfast skillets for breakfast/brunch. Interestingly, I haven’t seen breakfast skillets served as commonly in Shanghai.

The farmers breakfast skillet at Urban Diner consisted of a lean sausage, vegetable hash, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese.

It arrived a colorful skillet, with a few slices of toasts on the side.

Despite the cheese, this tasted like a very clean and healthy breakfast item. The melted and slightly charred cheddar helped to bind the fresh vegetables together.

I did have two complaints about the dish, which Chef Jorgensen later acknowledged.

  1. The sausage was a too dry and lean. It was dry because it was too lean. Without the inclusion of some fatty meat in a sausage, the sausage also lacked a certain savouriness.
  2. The plain toasts didn’t pair well with the dish. Buttered toast, or butter on the side would have helped.

If those points could be improved upon, it would certain elevate this item past an 8/10

The glutton in me also ordered a bacon cheeseburger and chilli cheese fries to go, for dinner. They will not be rated here, because at the time of eating, they were already cold and couldn’t represent eating them fresh. I did enjoy the quality of the beef, and the components of the chilli cheese fries, and would highly recommend them as well.


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