A new school year means a fresh start, fresh faces, and this year at USC, fresh food. USC Hospitality is introducing some new and affordable places to eat on campus that are sure to be a hit with students of all different tastes.
Returning students already know and love the popular restaurants at the Tutor Campus Center (TCC) such as Lemonade, Seeds, Panda Express and California Pizza Kitchen. Joining them is the newest member of the TCC family, Verde, a “Chipotle-esque restaurant,” according to Ron Baker, senior manager of USC Hospitality. “But we’re not Chipotle,” he said. “We’re better.” Such a forthright statement isn’t just talk; after all, there’s a USC reputation to uphold.
“What sets us apart from the rest is that we are fresh, and we pride ourselves on freshness,” said kitchen manager and chef Edward Rodriguez. “We make everything that day. We bring fresh ingredients from local places, and everything is grown here in California. For example, our tortillas are from a Los Angeles tortillería (tortilla factory) called La Fortaleza.”
The bold flavors of ancho chiles, lime, chipotle, adobo, garlic and oregano infuse the Verde menu, which includes burritos, burrito bowls, tacos and nachos, along with an abundance of fresh pico de gallo and guacamole. A variety of aguas frescas (“fresh waters” in Spanish) are also offered. “We plan on switching up the flavors every month or so,” Rodriguez said. “Right now we’re serving cantaloupe, strawberry guava and watermelon.”
Verde can be found in the old Wahoo’s Fish Tacos location and is already a hit with students. Rachel Latterich, a sophomore majoring in Public Relations is pleased with one difference. “I love refried beans and that was the reason why I never went to Chipotle, because they didn’t have refried beans, but Verde does,” Latterich said.
Neeraj Patel, or “Raj,” as most people call him, is a USC Viterbi School of Engineering graduate who followed his passion for food. He created a name for himself as the owner of the No Tomatoes! Indian Cafe near the Beverly Center as well as the popular No Tomatoes! food truck, which serves fresh Indian food in an American to-go style. Patel has partnered with USC Hospitality to open a second No Tomatoes!, fittingly located within his old stomping grounds, the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Ronald Tutor Hall.
“USC has given me a great opportunity and a great education,” Patel said. “I’m following my passion while still doing my regular job [as an engineer], and I think that this is a great opportunity for me to give back to the community and to the school that has given me so much.”
The No Tomatoes! Cafe will offer such classic Indian dishes as spinach chana, crunchy potato and pea samosas, and savory chicken vindaloo.
Director of USC Hospitality Kris Klinger said the new food options are also a reflection of the cultural diversity of its student body.
“Ultimately, the goal of USC Hospitality is to provide for the students no matter what their ethnicity or background,” Klinger said. “Bringing the foods to USC that students would normally eat at home creates a safer and familiar environment for students as well as benefitting the school.”
Aiming to please the customer and serve up the most authentic cuisine on campus, Tutor Hall Cafe has introduced a Southeast Asian-inspired bistro, adjacent to No Tomatoes! This part of the cafe serves up five types of ramen, such as vegetable, shrimp and Thai beef as well as Southeast Asian inspired salads. Executive Chef Eric Ernest and his team will also be rolling out a Los Angeles-area favorite: the bahn mi.
“[Bahn mi] are cuts of chicken, pork or beef on a baguette, mostly inspired from Vietnam and Morocco because of all the French outposts there,” Ernest said. “It’s kind of like a French-meets-Southeast Asian sandwich that is nice and flat, with thin cut meat and vegetables.”
USC Hospitality doesn’t stop there. In order to put the icing on the cake and add a cherry on top, Traditions and Tommy’s Place, the designated “pubs” on campus, according to USC Hospitality, have undergone renovations and are about to be the most happening spots for student nightlife on campus. Traditions or “Traddies,” has always been perfect for fun date nights, guys’ or girls’ nights out, and especially music performances and USC football.
Traditions’ menu now serves Big Country barbecue, a southern inspired classic barbecue joint with all the fixings. The restaurant promises to provide the best barbecue in the West with a signature sriracha-lime aioli sauce, perfect for the hand-breaded chicken tenders, and the Korean BBQ sauce made for the tender half-rack crispy spare ribs called “The Sidekick.” Make sure to plan ahead for the designated daily specials, like the campus favorite chicken and waffles sandwich that is available on Thursdays, and the 50-cent Wing Nights perfect for Monday Night Football. Wednesday is also Trivia Night at Tommy’s Place on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Students will be pleased with the vast array of new on-campus dining options, and should take the opportunity afforded to them to try something new and exciting.