During the last few years, Trojans have witnessed many developments in food options on and around campus. The Lot, a makeshift lunch hangout of years past, made way for the Ronald Tutor Campus Center in terms of on-campus dining. And yes, there was a time when Superior was the only grocery store within walking distance of most student housing. But despite this diversification, students have still been searching for communal weekend brunches outside on-campus dining halls.
One of the most popular local spots is just a walk or Campus Cruiser ride away: A little wine bar called Bacaro LA has become beloved for its evening sangria pitchers and small plates. Now, following its recent expansion, Bacaro is aiming to fill the brunch void left in the dining scene.
In November, the restaurant began offering its once-monthly “Morning After Club” brunch, scheduled to take place on the first Sunday of every month from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Judging by the crowd of 150 that came out in support of its first installation, Bacaro’s new expansion is bound to become a USC tradition.
“Our goal, long-term, is to be serving lunch and to offer more and better options around USC,” Executive Chef Lior Hillel said. “We wanted to start with once a month to see the reaction, but ideally we would do it every week or every other week in the future.”
The brunch menu is a well-edited selection of 12 plates that ranges from sweet to savory and light to all-out filling, covering all the bases when it comes to breakfast preferences.
“The menu is composed of things I like for breakfast,” Hillel said. “There are vegetarian and vegan options; we have customers with dietary restrictions, and we wanted to create something for them, too.”
Vegan is anything but boring in this case. The yam cakes with poblano pepper pesto and market beets, which resemble a plate of savory miniature pancakes, is one of the most unique menu items that foodies — vegan or not — will eat up. By popular demand, the restaurant’s famous “Bacaro Burger” also appears on the morning menu.
Savory items are the cornerstone of the brunch menu and come with a choice of plain, seasoned or sweet chili potatoes. There’s no going home hungry with the steak ‘n’ eggs or the club sandwich smothered in homemade chipotle sauce as options, proving that a small-plates restaurant can curb even the largest of appetites.
All this hearty fare is not to say more traditional breakfast dishes like omelettes, French toast and pancakes are neglected. Eggs are prepared in a variety of ways or served in combination with bacon and a pancake. The pancake dish itself, which the restaurant named “griddle cakes,” comes with granola, yogurt, berries and whipped honey cardamom, the same spice used in the night menu’s to-die-for cookie dough dessert.
While the food is exemplary, students will admit the real draw is the $1 drink specials (yes, $1): Strawberry bellinis, mimosas, Bloody Marys and sangria are served on the cheap for the entirety of the meal. Even with all breakfast items priced at $10.95, the total should come out to quite a bit under what most breakfast spots Downtown would charge.
“We wanted to bring people in with affordable drinks,” Hillel said. “Our main customers are students, and we know that it relates to their budget.”
The Morning After Club on Dec. 2 will no longer take reservations, but a little wait can be made enjoyable with a drink (or two or three) at the bar before being seated. All the drink mixes with the exception of the orange juice are made in-house, an impressive feat considering the amount flowing to keep up thirsty diners.
“We’re the only location that offers booze during lunch,” Hillel said. “I think it’s a pretty good deal.”
It would be a good deal any day of the week, but what better way to celebrate the last week of a semester’s classes than with a few morning cocktails with some friends? Whether you are there to ward off the effects of Saturday night or just want to enjoy some quality feasting, Bacaro’s Morning After Club satisfies.
“We had overall positive reviews at our first one,” Hillel said. “We’ve taken suggestions, and we look forward to a busy one Dec. 2.”