Any hope for good restaurants near USC?
- Hungry Mom
Our son is now a student at USC. My husband and I have been there twice and, after two miserable bad-coffee-shop-type experiences, quickly realized that our normal habit of just walking out of the hotel and finding a place to eat won't work there. The taco stands do look inviting for a quick bite, and I'm sure we'll do some tasting in the future, but I'm more in the market for a sit-down dinner, ideally at a place with at least a minimal wine list. It doesn't have to be high-end, and we love experimenting with all types of food. And we're acknowledging that we'll probably have to give up our usual foot-powered foraging habits, and get back in the car. But because we are so clueless about LA and are hesitant about driving far in a city we don't know, I was hoping there might be some recommendations out there for interesting places that are reasonably accessible from the USC area. All suggestions gratefully appreciated!
Fortunately you are not far from downtown LA, where a wealth of higher priced options exist. However, for a good, yet not world beater, steak house, most will agree that Taylor's Steaks at 3361 W. 8th Street, just east of Alvarado, is good value in a fairly old world setting. Prices not a rip, with most steaks in the $15-22 range, and sides included. Drinks are plausibly priced, unlike the west side and the wine list is decent. Also no major dress code. I know others will chime in on the merits of several of the local mexican joints, none of which I can attest to. La Serenata di Garibaldi at 1842 E. 1st St., near State St. in Boyle Heights is quite good Mexican food with higher priced entrees than you would expect ($16-22) with a strong emphasis on seafood and quality sauces. Quite good.
One thing to remember in both cases: the neighborhoods are not inviting, yet seem safe to restaurant patrons.
My advise would be to skip Taylor's in view of recent changes.
I had been going to Taylor's for over two decades and had never had a bad experience there. So I was rather skeptical about the number of recent posts from disappointed former fans of Taylor's. So a couple weeks ago I went there and ordered my usual Taylor's Special Dinner Steak. That is a small filet mignon, butterflied and smothered with grilled onions. On all my previous visits I had found the meat to be tender and flavorful, cooked medium rare just as I always ordered. This last time it was evident that there had been a drastic change. I found to my disappointment that the quality of the Taylor's steaks has seriously declined. The steaks were tough, tasteless and light years away from the steaks we had on our previous visits. My dining companions had the same reaction. I was unable to get any suitable explanation from the restaurant. Someone here had mentioned that Taylor's changed their supplier. That could certainly account for the decline. Anyway, I would stay away from Taylor's unless they return to the former level of quality on which their reputation was based.
A new place near USC is Aaliyah African & Creole Cafe @ 2540 S.Figueroa (corner of Adams and Fig).
Clean cafeteria style with about 20 different items at any given time. Eight to ten tables. The African dishes were good but I cannot compare them to anything I have had receintly. The Creole dishes are excellent. Fried catfish ( crisp, crunchy and moist), crawfish ettouffee (big bold dark roux), seafood okra gumbo ( spicy!! and thick but not gummy) and the red beans and rice (a bit watery but decent) all work. Service can be a bit slow especially if you catch them when they first open. Lots of veggie items too if that's your taste.
Be sure to try the Sambusas. Like a mexican empanada/ turnover but the dough is a tiny bit heavier. Beef and chicken worked for me. Very savory.
Also, I remember the tea being somewhat interesting. It's "African" tea and at first you swear it's Southern sweet tea with a ton of lemon but after a few sips you can start to taste the spices (cardamom???) Not sure but refreshing.
The best part is that the place is cheap. Most items are 2-4 bux a serving but a few are 6-7 dollars.
Aaliyah african & creole cafe/ 213-746-2799
I recommend searching this board (or Zagat's for that matter) for 'downtown'-- anything you come up with there will be an easy drive. For a very good restaurant meal in the vicinity you may want to try Zucca on Figueroa around Olympic or Cafe Pinot on Flower around 5th. For a great meal you must try Water Grill on Grand between 5th and 6th. All have good wine lists (esp. Water Grill). There are so many more great places in the general vicinity (15 minutes or so by car) including all of Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown. You might also check this board for recommendations in these areas.
Though a lot of the students like Chanos in 30th and Figueroa, there is a little Mexican restaurant on the west side of 30th and Fig next to the Spudnuts that is really good. La Taquiza. They make their own corn tortillas and they make great tacos. Also excellent salads and some of their own concoctions called mulitas. Oh and their taquitos are home made and also very good. Guac is ok too. Up the street across from Staples on 11th and Flower there is The Palm. 9th and Fig there is that pit owned by our illustious mayor Riordan The Pantry. Inside the tall building adjacent to it, there is an Italian place whos name escapes me right now. Also in the Hotel Figueroa, there is a Middle Eastern restaurant that does kebabs. 8th and Fig Zucca the overpriced Italian, and between 7th and 8th there is a Morton's and a CPK. This should hold you over for a while. Ah, and on Vermont near the 10 freeway, don't forget the USC student fav La Barca (or as we knew it La Barfa) It is not bad.