The best ‘Secret Menu’ meal swipe items

Meal swipes, a resource that USC students seem to have in abundance at the end of each semester, can be used at spots across campus. (Sarah Cortina | Daily Trojan File Photo)

After days of bracing this week’s icy cold weather and hammering away at those midterm cram sessions at Leavey, the temptation to crawl back into your snuggly twin XL beds is alluring. A perk of eating at one of the three dining halls on campus is the variety of different cuisines served daily over the “same” menu at USC’s eleven retail cafes on campus — but again, who wouldn’t pick a warm, comfy meal at home over trekking to the cafeteria?

Well, to emulate that same variety, here are some lesser-known “secret menu” items you can buy with one of the bajillions of your meal swipes!

Law (and Fertitta) Cafes’ Salmon Bowls & Boba

The infamous salmon filet draped in Sriracha mayo, sprinkled with nori and laid upon a bed of steamed white rice with a side of avocado — popularized on TikTok in late 2021 — has the Law Cafe’s line winding out the door. You don’t have to walk down the basement and brave the hungry crowd, as this fish dish is available at Fertitta Cafe. With a meal swipe, you too can receive this Emily Mariko meal (a la carte) at two locations on campus.

Although not lately, Thai milk tea and milk tea (both served with boba) were also available for a meal swipe at the Law Cafe. With campus opening up more and more each day, we are crossing our fingers for the return of this convenient fuel for our after-class treat.

Seeds Marketplace’s Chicken Tenders & Crinkle Fries

The ultimate comfort food. These crispy chicken tenders and crinkle fries sprinkled with cajun seasoning are only available for meal-swipe orders through the USC Campus Dining Mobile Order App during the “lunch” meal period (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). After checking the boxes of “Chicken Tenders” and your preferred drink under “Student Lunch Meal Plan” on the app, simply head to the back right corner of Seeds Marketplace and pick up these fried delights.

Fertitta Cafe’s Asian Snacks, Mochi & Panna Cotta

After a long week of unused meal swipes, you can head to Fertitta Cafe to gather some favorite childhood Asian snacks lined along the right wall near the entrance. As a two-for-one-swipe deal, you can choose from Hi-Chew candy, dried mango, Yan-Yan Chocolate dipped biscuit sticks, Hello Kitty jelly-filled marshmallows, white and milk chocolate wafers, butter cookies, Pocky, Sriracha Peas, My Pote potato chips and Asare rice crackers. If you’re feeling thirsty, feel free to mix-and-match one of these sweet treats with a full-sized drink. Explore the array of perishable food and stock up your dorm supply with new goodies!

Popovich Cafe and Literatea’s Flavored Lattes & Pastries

Coffee: A college student’s fuel to function. Rather than spend “real money” at Starbucks, be sure to frequent either Popovich or Literatea for all your coffee and latte needs! A singular meal swipe will get you any latte with a “flavor” (including mocha, caramel, hazelnut, or the occasional seasonal syrup like pumpkin spice in the fall), additional shots of espresso if you need that extra kick-starter to your day, an option for a milk substitute (ie. oat and almond milk) and a pastry or bagel of your choice. Although not listed as a meal swipe, this morning combo is readily available upon request of the friendly cashiers at these early-opening cafes.

Tutor Hall Cafe’s Banh Mi & Miso Salmon Bowls

Tucked away in the southwest corner of campus, Tutor Hall’s truly underrated Chipotle-esque Indian food meals have a new competitor, the Vietnamese beef and lemongrass chicken Banh Mi sandwiches. Layed between halves of warm and toasty French bread, the meat filling is complemented by cucumber, cilantro, Sriracha mayo and Daikon slaw that provides an all-encompassing bite of muted and zesty flavors. This sandwich, chip and drink combo is the perfect on-the-go meal if you’re around the Viterbi School of Engineering.

Another salmon dish without the Law Cafe line. This alternative for those not near the east of campus can enjoy this bowl (misleadingly listed under the “salad” option of the USC dining app), which consists of a salmon filet doused in Sriracha mayo served with jasmine rice, julienned carrots, cilantro and crunchy wonton strips.