HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Taking my kid to visit USC end of next week. What's a cool

lunch spot near campus popular with students, good food, not pricey.

Something representative of where she might go with fellow students, but with a filter of it needs to be tasty!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. chichen itza is the obvious answer. fantastic yucatan food in an awesomely diverse food court. i recommend the panuchos and the cochinita pibil.

    1 Reply
    1. re: set0312

      Completely agree with the rec. I didn't find out until long after I graduated, and was so sad that good food was so close without me ever knowing as an undergrad. The food is delicious.

    2. There's nothing cool about USC. And "USC" and "not pricey" do not go together.

      Just kidding, +1 Chichen Itza.

      13 Replies
        1. re: chrishei

          Chrishei don't be jealous about our proximity to the best Mexican in town! The OP's daughter is gonna be a regular of Guisados, Mariscos Jaliscos, and Chichen Itza in no time.

          1. re: set0312

            The real question is whether the majority of SC students would actually go to these places.

            1. re: chrishei

              spent alot of my college days @ king taco/el taurino. I'm sure with the hipsterization of food they've started going to Guisados/MJ/Chichen Itza.

              1. re: ns1

                Better than my initial assumption of Mercado/Petty Cash/(insert bougie trendy Mexican joint here).

                    1. re: ns1

                      What the heck? When did that happen? I'll miss that scratchy PA system and the nacho fries, and the drive-thru window being on the "wrong" side of the car. RIP Chanos.

                      1. re: spoonlicker

                        I heard about it earlier this year, so at least a few months now. RIP Mix-Up Burger w/ egg or half order asada nachos no beans + large orange whip.

                        Replaced by some other greasy hut using the same formula.

                        1. re: ns1

                          Aww, man, that is sad news. I have so many memories attached to that place. Special quesadilla with pastrami...

                          That Mix-Up Burger with egg sounds damn tasty.

              2. re: chrishei

                Majority will not. But the food-driven minority will.

          2. OK. I am only doing this because I feel sympathy for you. Try Bacaro on Union.

            But have the decency to have your loved child do her graduate work at UCLA so she can get a job. :)

            7 Replies
            1. re: Bruin2

              Oops. Bacaro open only for dinner apparently. Guess you'll have to take her to UCLA for her undergraduate work. You can thank me later.

              1. re: Bruin2

                Man that service at shamshiri is enough to go Trojan!

                1. re: Bruin2

                  Bacaro LA runs a place called Natures Brew which is open for BLD

                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                    Barcaro is also opened for Brunch on Sundays.

                2. re: Bruin2

                  We're also visiting Stanford Bruin(s)..... USC is a "safety school" for her ;-)

                  Graduate work? That's a long ways away, cross that bridge then.

                  1. re: masnole

                    Go elsewhere (unless she's going into business, architecture, or engineeering). Going to that blasted school is the single biggest regret I have in life.

                    Back on topic.... Little Tokyo may be a fun excursion (although I don't think too many undergrad students are eating there).

                3. All the kids go to California Kogi. Don't ask me why.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Really? I went there for the first time this week. Not impressed and the Chipotle next door had LOTS more business.


                    1. re: Dommy

                      When I was at USC (late 1970s), these were my hangouts:
                      Atomic Cafe (Little Tokyo)
                      The Original Pantry Cafe
                      Grandview Gardens (Chinatown)
                      Arunee Restaurant (Thai)
                      El Colmao (Cuban)
                      El Cholo (Western Ave.)
                      Dr. Munchies
                      Ollie Hammond's
                      Cafe Figaro
                      The Magic Pan (Crêperie)

                      1. re: Mr. Roboto

                        I remember Grandview's walk-up dim sum window, and lived about four blocks from Arunee...

                        1. re: Mr. Roboto

                          Not a regular stop amongst my crew during my 3 years there.

                          Ours were...
                          - king taco
                          - el taurino
                          - TG Express (shameful)
                          - viztangos (surprisingly decent if it's still there)
                          - pretty much anything else that delivered
                          - chanos

                          i did not find out about this place until after, but their mulitas are the shit:
                          - la taquiza

                          note: being in the greek system definitely influenced my choices here

                          1. re: ns1

                            I was, unfortunately, all about Evil Kitchen (EVK) and then, later, Cafe 84.... and then hoping my friends w/ cars would take me to Little Tokyo.

                            Pasta Roma was also big when I was at USC, although I can't in good faith recommend it to anyone. It's not inedible; it's just not... good.

                            1. re: ilysla

                              Oh. And the OG Mannas. Ayce Kbbq & flies for $9.99

                              Which also reminds me, lots of nights spent at hodori and bcd.

                              EVK Huh? I'm so sorry.

                              1. re: ns1

                                Didn't hit K-town until I was in grad school (or possibly even later....).

                                You know, EVK started doing "theme" nights once in awhile while I was there. The food was shockingly good (for EVK....). Was never too tempted by the Sizzler's across the street (although I used to love their cheese bread as a kid).

                                1. re: ilysla

                                  if you don't love sizzler's cheese bread there is something wrong with you.

                                  even the sizzlers is gone

                              2. re: ilysla

                                Cafe 84 was everything. We've all come a long way since EVK.

                                1. re: set0312

                                  It was in my jr or sr yr that they put in the Jamba Juice and Krispy Kreme.

                                  I think they were actually starting to build more sophisticated eateries just as I was leaving (of course). My vague recollection was that they were starting a cafeteria w/ blonde wood tables somewhere Parkside?

                                  I remember that my on-campus "treat" was going to Upstairs Cafe. I felt so fancy b/c it had table service! Ah, to have such simple needs again....

                                  1. re: ilysla

                                    The Jamba Juice was a godsend. And yep they threw in an international cafeteria at Parkside. But you weren't missing anything there.

                      2. About a 10 minute drive to Langer's deli for the best pastrami & rye on earth. Open till 4pm and closed Sundays.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: wienermobile

                          re: langers.
                          do you really think that langers is "popular with students"
                          "representative" of where she'd go with fellow students?

                          despite having loved langers for a while, i don't think it's what the OP is seeking for this trip.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            As a Trojan, I can say nobody has any clue Langers exists. Although its a damn good sandwich, if you include Langers, you might as well include everything in town.

                            1. re: set0312

                              Langer's is on the expensive side and a bit distant from USC. What surprises me is that more USC students don't go to Dino's.

                              1. re: nosh

                                A few of us do--the more adventurous ones I guess.

                                Classic SC spots from my time there were La Taquiza, Chichen Itza, Sandwich Island, Wood Spoon, Bacaro, and anyplace in downtown with byob. So for that reason Colori Kitchen was always looked favorably upon.

                                And any of us with Korean friends got pretty familiar with park's, cho sun galbee, etc.

                                Nosh are you a Trojan?

                                1. re: set0312

                                  Times have changed since I was a Trojan.... I couldn't afford many of those places as an undergrad.... And some of those places didn't exist yet....

                                2. re: nosh

                                  They're all at Tommy's.

                                  Or Philippes or Coles.

                                  Or Lotus, that hookah lounge cum sushi bar.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Well, if they are all at Tommy's or Philippe's it's nice to know some things haven't changed in 35 years.

                              2. re: westsidegal

                                Just a recommendation if they're looking for great food...

                                1. re: wienermobile

                                  no one would question that, if they are up for finding a terrific pastrami sandwich, this would be the absolutely closest terrific pastrami sandwich.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    I would question that. Everyday. And twice on Sunday.

                            2. If you haven't visited the campus yet you'll be floored with the food choices offered. Those USC kids have it made and many of them I know of don't leave campus unless there's a party somewhere else.
                              Having said that…
                              Chicken Itza is a short walk from campus, somewhat good parking during the day, La Taquiza of course for Mexican,
                              Langer's is mentioned but it's not anywhere near the campus, Wood Spoon is popular and
                              If you like Korean there's Cho Sun Galbee or Parks.
                              Vermont (running parallel with USC campus) has upgraded alot of the food choices...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: latindancer

                                No opinion as to where your daughter should go to school: I went to law school at SC, and lived at the border of Pico/Union and K-Town for quite a while; both my parents were Bruins. That's for a different board. Re: food,as Ilysla observed, lots of places around now weren't there then, but in addition to Taquiza and Chichen Itza, the drive (or even the bus-ride) to downtown, J-town or K-Town is short, by LA standards.

                                1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                  So, I know LA pretty well and we'll be going to other places and parts of the city..... We're there for 2 nights/days, just not real knowledgeable about the area right around USC.

                              2. For you 'SC alumni posting in this thread...have you been to the campus lately?

                                It is NOTHING like it was just 5 years ago.

                                My answer for the OP...take the Expo line into Downtown. That's something that I truly wish was available when I was there. Millions of options in DTLA.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: ns1

                                  Anecdotal evidence. Seems like just about every time I'm on Expo line I see some college age kids with SC gear get on at the SC stop and head downtown. Same coming back.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    In Downtown, I like Colori Kitchen.

                                    1. re: ilysla

                                      Colori Kitchen is awesome but I always spend more money than I expected. Free corkage.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        In Downtown Grand Central Market….

                                        1. re: ns1

                                          I can see that since the food is good. =) I used to over-order, um, everywhere, but I've been much better about curbing that over the past 1-2 yrs. Better for the wallet and the waist line. ;)

                                      2. re: ns1

                                        ns1 you're saying change is a good thing? ya?

                                        1. re: set0312

                                          yep. but then again, I'm not against gentrification ^_^

                                        1. re: jessejames

                                          Baja Sharkeez in Manhattan Beach is USC central, not close though.

                                            1. re: ns1

                                              I like the home fries in bacon and sausage type grease the griddled toast too. 24 hr spot.

                                          1. Taco Tamix, 20th and Hoover.
                                            There's nothing cooler than an al pastor truck in LA.

                                            Also, a shout-out to Budacki's. Man, that place is teaming with students (and cops, so you're totally safe). 2 Vienna dogs combo for $6.50, and they do a wicked "combo beef", straight out of Chicago.

                                            I do know where I absolutely can NOT stand by campus: Jack N Jills. *barf*

                                            1. http://www.jacksnjoe.com

                                              Apparently this place sustained my son through 2 years at USC Marshall (the business school). It's inexpensive, the portions are large, and it's a student magnet.