Ground Zero is a hidden gem of the USC campus. Located in the corner of campus, and surrounded by freshman dorms, it is easy to miss. Recently, Ground Zero Performance Café at USC has begun serving a variety of new items. Aside from their classic milkshakes, Ground Zero has always sold a variety of baked goods and beverages.
Ground Zero now has bagels from Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, baked goods from Bittersweet Treats, and cookies and bars from Action Cookie. The bagels and baked goods are in a refrigerated display case to the left of the counter, whereas the cookies and bars are on the counter next to the cashier.
Opened in November 2012, Bittersweet Treats, also known as Bittersweet LA, is based in Pasadena, Calif. — 15 miles northeast of USC. Over the past year, it has developed a reputation for being a homely dessert shop and bakery with enough variety to please nearly anyone, and has already become one of the more popular and well-known bakeries in the L.A, area.
Ground Zero currently has Bittersweet’s caramel cake, chocolate crunch cake, brownies, blonde brownies, “whoopie pies” and cupcakes. Whoopie pies are a red, heart-shaped cupcake with frosting sandwiched in the middle, whereas the caramel cake is, as the name indicates, a sweet, caramel-flavored cake, baked in an attractive pinwheel mold.
The highlight of the Bittersweet Treats items, however, is definitely the chocolate crunch cake. The chocolate crunch cake is taller than its width, and is covered in a thick layer of light meringue. The filling consists of multiple layers of chocolate cake and frosting, with a rich chocolate taste that is not too sweet, and contains the crunchy texture that is its namesake.
The brownies are also solid, both literally and figuratively. They consist of the bitter taste of cocoa intermingling with the sweet taste of sugar, solidified into a dense square of moist brownie. The chocolaty, chewy consistency of the semisweet brownie makes it a winner. At the time of writing, Ground Zero currently has no lemon bars.
The bagels are from Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, a family-run bakery that was, ironically enough, founded and based in Los Angeles. Located in between Historic Filipinotown and North Westlake, Brooklyn Bagel Bakery has been in Los Angeles for over 60 years now.
Ground Zero stocks plain bagels, 9-grain bagels, pizza bagels and “everything” bagels. All flavors besides the plain cost $2.50 with the plain bagel being $2. Cream cheese is an extra $0.25. The bagels are nothing special, just your standard flavors with the exception of the pizza bagel. Not too dry, with just the right density and consistency, the bagels at Ground Zero are what bagels should always taste like.
Though Ground Zero is better known as a place to watch SComedy and live music performances -— not to mention a place get late-night milkshakes — the bagels should definitely encourage more people to come buy breakfast and coffee there in the morning as well.
Lastly, the items from Action Bar are chocolate chip cookies and “California Power Bars.” The chocolate chip cookies are your standard well-baked chocolate chip cookies. Chewy with semisweet chocolate chips, it’s a large circle of sugary, chocolaty goodness. On the other hand, the California Power Bar is anything but standard. A quick glance at the ingredients list on the back reveals everything from the standard rolled oats and a variety of tree nuts to more bizzare ingredients, such as pinto beans, roasted yam and ground coconut. The resulting combination of ingredients, however, still results in a filling and tasty power-bar that is also vegan and gluten-free.
For a student who typically only makes quick trips to Ground Zero, the new baked goods definitely add some variety to the menu. No item costs more than $4.50 and nearly every item is a solid choice. The addition of bagels definitely adds some much-needed variety to what was otherwise a fairly limited morning menu, which was previously limited to scones and coffee or tea. The brownies and other desserts add another option for students who dislike milkshakes, while the power bar is a convenient option for students cramming for upcoming midterms or looking for a small meal in between classes.