USC Hospitality introduces new campus eateries

They have done it again; USC Hospitality has opened new restaurants on campus that will satisfy every student’s needs. Starting a healthy diet? Begin your day with Nekter’s freshly squeezed juices and açai bowls. Need something warm? The Habit can serve you a no-fuss burger that will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Hosting a club meeting or conference? Express Catering can do the trick.

“Ring” in the New Year · USC Hospitality has introduced a handful of new on-campus dining options. The Habit Burger Grill replaced Carl’s Jr. in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center food court earlier this semester. - Photo courtesy of Erika Chesley

“Ring” in the New Year · USC Hospitality has introduced a handful of new on-campus dining options. The Habit Burger Grill replaced Carl’s Jr. in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center food court earlier this semester. – Photo courtesy of Erika Chesley

Conveniently located between the Roski School of Fine Arts and the Architecture School, Nekter is a “better and healthier alternative to Jamba Juice,” said Kris Klinger, director of Hospitality. “When we turned the market-style food court Café 84 to a full-time restaurant, we knew that there would be some complaints from students regarding the loss of Jamba [Juice], so two years later we opened Nekter to meet their needs.”

With locations in 23 different places in Southern California, as well as a location on the UCLA campus, Nekter has expanded its freshness to USC where it offers delicious vegan and vegetarian options to give college students their essential vitamins and minerals in order to keep them healthy during times of stress and full class schedules. Nekter serves up an assortment of veggie-filled juices to help the immune system, such as  the Toxin Flush, which has parsley, spinach, apples, lemon and ginger. The fruit smoothies at Nekter are a real treat. From the Berry Banana Burst to the Chocolate Dream, Nekter creates every smoothie fresh the second you order it to provide customers with a nourishing dessert alternative.

“We want to keep enhancing healthy options on campus,” Klinger said. “The more healthy options, the merrier, and the healthier our students will be.”

The açai bowls are topped with fresh fruit and can be customized by adding gluten-free raw oat nut granola or by making a bowl a “greenie” (with kale and spinach). The shots of wheatgrass and ginger are an excellent way to get a healthy boost of energy and are quick and easy to eat, even on a busy schedule. Also on the “grab and go” menu are some healthy salads and pre-packaged juices perfect for late nights and study sessions. Nekter even gives its customers the option of ordering its juice cleanse in-store or online at Nekter’s website.

Every semester, USC Hospitality wants to change up the menu by adding a new restaurant. Recently, the Ronald Tutor Campus Center added a very popular new addition to its family, The Habit, replacing the classic Carl’s Jr. Known for its cooked-to-order burgers and exemplary service, The Habit is every student’s go-to when he or she is in the mood for something savory.

The Habit prides itself on not being like any other burger joint — to this effect, they offer an ahi tuna burger alongside a bevy of healthy chicken breast sandwiches. The sandwiches are a departure from the greasy burgers of, say,  Carl’s Jr.

“There are a few different items that we have here,” said John Phillips, vice president of Franchising at The Habit. “We have chicken sandwiches that definitely separate us from other ‘better burger’ concepts; we have a fresh breasted chicken that we slather in barbeque and teriyaki, and we also do a club sandwich with avocado and bacon on grilled sourdough [bread]. We also have the ahi tuna, that comes on a nice seeded bun, with teriyaki glaze on it.”

Burgers aren’t all that are on the menu — The Habit also has ready-to-go fresh salads and crispy sides such as onion rings and French fries as other dining options. Like the SoCal classic burger joint In-N-Out, The Habit also offers a secret menu item:  the Santa Barbara Burger.

“Our Santa Barbara Style — this is the only location that has it — comes with two patties, two slices of cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and guacamole, all on grilled sourdough — a nice big hefty portion,” Phillips said.

Apart from students’ individual daily food needs, clubs, groups, organizations and faculty need a convenient way to get food as well. To satisfy this need, USC Hospitality reintroduces Express Catering — simple and fresh catering without the mess of servers and fancy silverware.

“With [Express Catering] we really focused on the quality and consistency, and we offer it at a price that is competitive,” said Eric Ernest, Executive Chef for USC Hospitality.

Express Catering offers everything from Krispy Kreme donuts and breakfast items to savvy, reusable boxed lunches in which customers can choose a fresh, handmade sandwich on artisan bread, fresh salad, or wrap, to go with a handmade cookie, chips, fruit and a drink.

“We are bringing in new items right now to cover the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, and we will have those rolling out by the end of the month,” said USC Hospitality’s Special Events and Catering’s manager, Heather Rawls. “Also, we offer themed donuts — for Halloween there will be little ghosts, goblins, bats and witches, Valentine’s Day has hearts, all green donuts for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter egg shaped for Easter and we do a monthly special on a dozen donuts and a gallon of coffee for $20.”

Since Express Catering doesn’t charge tax to students and also takes dining dollars, the opportunities to have a year-end potluck or celebrate a friend’s birthday are endless.

During the week of Jan. 27, USC will partner with the Mushroom Council for Mushroompalooza.

“Every day [this] week, there will be something mushroom-related happening on campus, where every restaurant will be doing specials,” said Erika Chesley, Associate Director of Special Events, Sales and Marketing for USC Hospitality. “We’re going to kick it off with a theme night at Café 84, [and] there will be a cooking demonstration at the farmer’s market next Wednesday.”

USC Hospitality’s goal is to promote healthy living and eating on the USC campus, as well as to start new trends. By hosting the Mushroomapalooza, they hope to make students aware of all of the benefits that mushrooms have, not only from a health standpoint, but from a flavor standpoint as well.

“Mushrooms are really high in Vitamin D, flavor, and ultimately really high in glutamine acid which is umami, and with mushrooms, you can also lower your caloric intake for that given day, but you get a lot of flavor,” Ernest said.

It seems that with USC Hospitality (and also mushrooms), anything is possible. With the help of the students, USC’s food will only get tastier, and will offer even better and more current dining options for the future.