USC students have been complaining about the school dining choices for years. We complain about the quality of the food in the dining halls, and the lack of variety. We complain about the scarcity of vegetarian and healthy choices, the price, the limited hours of dining areas and the inadequate transportation to off-campus restaurants.
Students can now save their breath, however, because a wide range of dining options have been rolling up to the fringes of campus.
The rise of food trucks is nothing new. But recently, more and more mobile eateries have become regular caterers to our school after finding a decent fan base among selection-deprived students.
College students are the perfect customers for food trucks. Hungry from hours of lectures, they lack the demand for fancy gourmet food that comes with polished service. As long as the eats are cheap, delicious and accessible, students are happy.
New to the idea or unfamiliar with what’s out there? The following are a selection of the most commonly seen food trucks around our campus. So hop on over and chow down.
If you’re food truck-savvy, you probably have already guessed that Bull Kogi is an imitator of the original Kogi food truck created by chef Roy Choi, the brain behind the fusion of Korean condiments and Mexican tacos. Even the truck and logos look similar. Given the success of the Kogi truck, such imitation is not a surprise. But since the Kogi truck seldom visits the USC area, Bull Kogi will have to do.
The food is also similar to Kogi’s. The menu is simple: beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu served in either taco, burrito, rice bowl or quesadilla form.
The kimchi bulgogi tacos are the popular item here and for good reason. The beef is well marinated with a hint of sweetness, and is also tender and flavorful. Despite the fact that it is called a kimchi bulgogi taco, however, there were only scant, tiny slivers of kimchi.
Health-conscious students can rejoice because Bull Kogi piles on the traditional sesame cabbage heavier than the meat itself. But those who crave protein might need to order several more tacos to satisfy their carnivorous desires.
Pizza on a truck is not the most creative idea and the menu is very limited, but the Slice Truck really does know how to make good pizza. Its concept is based on simplicity, and with a good, thin, crispy crust, a wonderfully fresh sauce and real grated Parmesan cheese and fragrant herbs, you don’t need fancy ingredients to enjoy a truly satisfying pizza.
At $2.50 to $5 per slice, you get a fair amount for your buck, too. With a large pizza coming in at 18 inches wide, Slice Truck’s slices are 65 percent larger than the average delivery slice of a large pizza. If you’re sick of cheese and pepperoni, they also have a specialty of the day, such as hot garlic, which comes smelling incredibly and wondrously pungent. Avoid it on a date, but otherwise, it’s a garlic-lover’s dream come true.
Lee’s Philly Gogi
Lee’s Philly Gogi serves up Korean-fusion in more than just tacos. It serves Korean-style Philly cheesesteaks, hoagies and burritos, too. But why order a taco from a truck called Philly? Stick to the cheesesteaks and you won’t be disappointed.
The Gogi Philly Cheesesteak is probably the most popular item here, but if you can handle spice, try the Gogi Spicy Chicken Cheesesteak too. The sandwich costs a little more than $6 with tax, and the size is equivalent to a foot-long Subway sandwich. It even comes with a small cup of creamy potato salad.
This sandwich does not skimp on the filling. Stuffed with flavorful, Korean barbecue meat sautéed with onions, and with the hot gooey cheese melted in the middle, it’ll win over the staunchest cheesesteak connoisseurs.
You also get a social treat by ordering from this truck. The owner is incredibly friendly, and he happily chats with all his customers, telling them that his sandwich is the best out of all the other trucks. That’s for you to decide, but his obvious pride and passion in his product is pleasantly infectious.
India Jones Chow Truck
India Jones is not for the faint-hearted. If you want hot, intense, greasy grub food, this is the truck for you. Usually wraps are considered lighter, weight-friendly fare, but those you find here are not diet food in the least and the flavors are anything but bland.
For starters, the wraps are called Frankies ($3.50 each), and their outer layers are made of a pan-fried dough-based pancake called roti, which are then filled with cilantro-tamarind chutney, onions, egg and your choice of either sautéed lamb, chicken, beef, shrimp, paneer or mushroom and cheese.
Wraps are fixed within minutes and served piping hot. The chutney is tangy, bold and mouth-watering, and the roti is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside with a faint egg-y taste. The whole thing is greasy, but not intolerably so.
With a similar dough to the Frankie but stuffed instead of wrapped, the Paratha ($3.50) comes filled with either aloo (potato curry), gobhi (cauliflower) or kemma (minced beef) and is served with some tangy yogurt raita as a cooling counterpart.
India Jones Chow Truck also serves traditional Indian fare such as butter chicken and assorted curries, but those have generally received fewer raves than the Frankies and Parathas. When it comes to this truck, have an adventurous spirit, and expect something unfamiliar, yet delicious.
Phamish Food Truck
So far, the food truck options have been pretty greasy, but you can still maintain a healthy diet while helping yourself to the offerings of mobile eateries near campus. Phamish is a Vietnamese food truck that sells fresh spring rolls (goi cuon), hot rice noodle soups (pho) and French-Vietnamese baguette sandwiches (banh mi).
Given that summer is fast approaching, the spring rolls and the sandwiches are the best bets. The banh mi comes in grilled steak, lemongrass pork, lemongrass chicken or vegetarian tofu, and prices range between $5 to $7.
The baguette is the best component of this sandwich — long and skinny, it has a crispy crust and chewy interior that makes for a perfect balance of bread and filling. The lemongrass pork is tender, but needs a bit more seasoning. But the garlic mayonnaise and the fresh pickled carrots, daikon (Asian radish), cilantro and jalapeño more than make up the lack of intensity in the meat.
For those looking for a low-carb version of this sandwich, the spring rolls come with similar filling options, just wrapped in a thin, clear rice wrapper. It’s stuffed with other ingredients like lettuce, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, bean sprouts, fresh mint and basil, and with a dipping sauce on the side. Basically, it is a summer salad wrap, with refreshing and clean flavors and textures.