In response to students’ requests for fresh, flavorful meal options, USC Hospitality has introduced new on-campus dining venues, menu offerings and products.
“As we continue to listen to feedback from students, we are adjusting our process and products to add more healthy options on campus,” Director of Hospitality Dirk de Jong said.
The Café at the new Wallis Annenberg Hall provides a casual, Italian-inspired dining experience. Manager Max Lopez developed the concept for The Café after traveling to Napa Valley over the summer. Lopez said that he gained inspiration from the honest, ingredient-driven cuisine served at institutions such as Bouchon Bakery and the French Laundry.
The menu at The Café features simple fare made from high-quality ingredients. The best-selling three cheese panini consists of gooey mozzarella and provolone, sun-dried tomatoes and olive tapenade, all sandwiched between crusty Asiago cheese bread. Packed with colorful fresh vegetables and tossed in a subtly sweet champagne vinaigrette, the kale and farro salad is ideal for a light lunch.
The Café also serves coffee and espresso drinks by Illy, an Italian company that sources its beans sustainably. By offering customers the option of enjoying their coffee on-site, Lopez hopes to reduce waste and create a vibrant café culture.
“We want students to feel the difference of how coffee tastes in a porcelain cup,” Lopez said. “Another key thing to be focused on is cutting back waste. We do plates for-here and all of our to-go packaging is made from recycled materials.”
Seeds Marketplace, a bustling lunch destination located inside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, unveiled three new offerings. The grain station provides wholesome, flavorful vegetarian meals that are made to order. Chef Edward Rodriguez explained the objective behind the grain bowls.
“This station before was sausages and hot dogs and crepes, and for the longest time we thought that that didn’t match the Seeds concept of food that could be modified, vegetables, freshness and grains [based],” Rodriguez said.
The Mediterranean, Southwestern and chili-garlic bowls incorporate bold ingredients and seasonings.
“Instead of simple, original flavors, we went for a lot of ingredients, like eight to 10 ingredients in each item,” Rodriguez said. “But it really brings out color, flavor profile and freshness into the scene.”
Sweet Lucie’s, an organic ice cream company founded by USC alumna Geri Czako, opened up its first scoop shop at Seeds. Czako started making ice cream at home while pregnant with her first child, Lucie.
“When I was pregnant with Lucie, I was like all other first-time moms, really into ‘how’s my baby developing,’” Czako said. “I realized that whatever I was eating affects my baby, so I started an organic diet. And of course, like most pregnant women, I was craving ice cream, so the two had to eventually combine, and I started making organic ice cream at home back in 2008.”
Czako began serving her ice cream at pop-up events throughout Los Angeles, quickly gaining a cult following that landed Sweet Lucie’s at Whole Foods in 2010.
Seeds offers fan favorites such as salted caramel and dark chocolate, along with an exclusive flavor called Trojan Swirl. The festive flavor combines creamy vanilla bean ice cream with fresh strawberry and mango sorbets.
DRNK Coffee + Tea, a sustainable coffee company with retail locations throughout Los Angeles, took over the coffee program at Seeds. Appealing to students serious about their morning cup of joe, the three custom blends are ground on-demand.
“Coffee drinkers really get what we do,” said Boris Horvat, director of Operations for DRNK.
Tucked into the basement of the Musick Law Building, the Law School Café introduced a new Asian-inspired menu featuring hearty rice bowls and boba tea. Associate Director of Special Events, Sales and Marketing Erika Chesley said that boba tea has drawn many undergraduate students to the quaint dining venue.
“We’re expecting boba here to take off in the same way that smoothies and juices took off at Nekter,” Chesley said.
“We’re almost doubling our sales from what we had before,” said manager Olivia Ortega-Sanchez. “The demand is there because kids want boba.”
The pork, salmon and vegetarian rice bowls provide a flavorful and cost-effective lunch option, combining carbs, protein and vegetables all in one.
“We worked on the bowls all summer to get a flavor profile,” Rodriguez said. “Do we want creamy, hoisin, sweet, sour, spicy, hot? Well, we figured out that we wanted all of them, so we kind of put them all together in a bowl and they really complement each other.”