Category Archives: Food

Restaurants to Try in LA

By Sarah Selke

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

Los Angeles is home to some of the most diverse cuisines in the world. From Italian to Chinese to Mexican to Thai food, this city offers a wide variety of foods that would be hard to find in such abundance in other American or even international cities. Despite the pandemic’s limitations on indoor and some outdoor dining, many restaurants still offer takeout or delivery services. Not only do these services help keep small businesses afloat, but they can also provide a much-needed alternative to cooking at home all of the time. Here are a few restaurants in the LA area that are beloved by many of the city’s residents.

Ji Rong Peking Duck

Located in Rosemead, Ji Rong Peking Duck is an upscale Chinese restaurant specializing in Peking duck. While it is about a 20 minute drive from USC, it is considered by many customers to have the best Peking duck in LA. This famous dish requires ordering an hour in advance. Some of their other popular items include lamb skewers, crispy walnut shrimp, stewed pork belly, beef rolls, meat pies, and green bean jelly. They are now offering both delivery and takeout.

Photo by Fabien Maurin on Unsplash

Tender Greens

Located in several places in LA County, Tender Greens offers modern American food that is relatively health-conscious. They are known for their hot plates, salads, and sandwiches. The plates are easily customizable, giving you a choice of protein, greens, and a side. Recently, they have also added a brunch and family meals section to their menu. During the pandemic, they have begun to offer outdoor dining and pickup.

Chichen Itza

Close to USC’s campus, Chichen Itza is a family-owned Mexican restaurant specializing in Yucatecan food. They are known for serving many traditional dishes such as Cochinita Pibil, Tamales, and Panuchos. The establishment has frequently made L.A. Weekly’s list of top 99 restaurants in Los Angeles, and customers continue to come back for their delicious dishes. Currently, they offer outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.

Urth Caffe

Urth Caffe is a popular European-style breakfast/brunch spot with multiple locations in LA County. Focused on sustainability and local ingredients, the establishment roasts its own organic coffee and blends its own teas. They offer a wide variety of menu items, including sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, salads, omelets, and desserts. One of my favorite dishes is their Mediterranean platter, which is a sampler plate of hummus, pearl couscous tabouli, roasted peppers, feta cheese, and dolma. They are currently open for outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.

Photo by Petr Sevcovic on Unsplash

Zui Xiang Yuan

A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Alhambra, Zui Xiang Yuan has a nice variety of relatively simple Chinese dishes. Famous for their dumplings and noodles, the establishment offers beef noodle soup, dan dan noodles, meat pies, pan-fried buns, and steamed buns. Compared to other restaurants with similar menus in the San Gabriel Valley, Zui Xiang Yuan stands out for its delicious and authentic take on southern Chinese food. Currently, they are open for takeout.

Oh My Pan Bakery & Café

Oh My Pan is an Asian-style bakery in San Gabriel that offers a variety of drinks, breads, and cakes. They offer many types of tea, milk tea, slush, and frosted milk with syrups made of fresh fruit. Their breads are made of Japanese flour, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture. Some of my favorite items are the taro with buttercream bun and the matcha mochi with buttercream bun. They are open for pickup.

Hopefully, some of these restaurants sounded appealing to you and you will go and try them for yourself! If you have any other LA restaurant recommendations that you simply can’t stop raving about, consider sending in a blog post submission to the American Language Institute describing your experience. You can submit a blog post or get more information on submitting a post by emailing jungheim@usc.edu.

Featured Image by Jermaine Ee on Unsplash

Sarah is a recent graduate who majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She was born in the Los Angeles area and has lived there much of her life. In addition to English, she has some background in Mandarin Chinese, French, and basic German. In her free time, she likes reading, listening to music, photography, and cooking. Sarah went to Beijing last summer and experienced having one-on-one conversations with other local students learning English. She hopes to continue improving her Chinese and French and is interested in teaching English as a foreign language someday.

A local food review: Chichen Itza Restaurant

By Jonah Vroegop

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.

First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market! 

The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.

“Taco’s de pollo asada” and a “torta de pollo asada”
Continue reading A local food review: Chichen Itza Restaurant

USC Student Voices Defining Home

Editor’s Note:

Where do you live? Where are you from? Where do you call home? For some people, the answers to all three of those questions will be the same. For many, they will be different. USC students come from different places across the country and around the globe. As young people trying to establish our place in the world, we are constantly searching for a place to call home. Everyone has a unique view of what home means to them, and below four different USC students come together to provide their own interpretation of home. You will hear from Grace (Yuan) Gao, an international student encountering the trials and tribulations of moving during a pandemic, Nathan Smith, a Masters student reflecting on his undergraduate abroad experience in Glasgow, Samhitha Saiba, coming to terms with her surprising homesickness after coming to L.A., and Leona Tafaghodi, a student in the World Bachelor in Business program learning to adjust to a new city every year. All of these students have come to USC under different circumstances, and all are still discovering what it means to feel at home somewhere. Perhaps you will find some similarities between your experiences and theirs, or perhaps simply a friendly reminder that you have had many homes and have many more to come.

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

Moving During a Pandemic: How I Moved Into My New Apartment 

By Grace Yuan Gao

[4 minute read]

This summer, I moved by myself to a new apartment for the very first time. Before moving, I had no idea how tiring but also eye-opening this experience would be. As an international student, I had never moved anywhere alone until coming to the United States. I grew up in a small city in the middle of China (Shanxi province, famous for its coal production), and when I first came to California I moved with the help of my parents. They assisted me in making lists of what I would need to bring to the United States and helped to package my belongings. The first time I moved to L.A., I felt fearful of the unknown, but at the same time, thrilled to come to a new and exotic place; I was able to plan and prepare for my move. However, I did not anticipate moving again in 2020 at the beginning of the summer. Moving to a new apartment during a pandemic was an utterly unforeseen experience for me, even though it was not a long distance from the place I had lived before.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Moving by myself came with a whole new set of challenges.

The most challenging part of this process for me was transportation. After being in a pandemic for nearly half a year, California has become the leading state of COVID-19 cases in the US. I had to move during the summer when the COVID-19 cases were still high since my current lease was about to expire and I did not renew it in order to save money. Neither I nor my friends (most of whom had already gone back home to their native countries) have a car, and hiring someone to help us move during this unprecedented time seemed to be an unnecessary risk. Thus, the new apartments and houses that I and my other international friends chose were really close to our original ones, so that we could move our belongings more easily. Some of my friends even moved all of their belongings by foot over multiple trips. They rented some small carts and walked to their new houses several times a day over the span of a week. It was pretty exhausting, but ultimately safe for all involved.

At first I thought it would be a huge project, and had no idea where to start.

But I was lucky enough to have a friend who gave me a hand with his new car. He carried all my stuff (about ten big boxes) downstairs and moved them to his car over several trips and greatly helped me. However, life is always full of unexpected experiences. The first day of moving, my friend was driving my things to my new apartment and a bike hit his car, which ended up shocking everyone involved. Moving is a journey full of new experiences and uncertain events, even occurrences such as a car accident, which you do not anticipate but will likely experience sooner or later.

Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

I did not realize that I would miss my original apartment until the day before I left.

Since I just came to the United States a year ago, I usually feel like a rootless plant which prepares to be moved anywhere at any time. It was surprising for me to find that I felt an attachment to the first place I lived in when I came here and I was pretty sad to say goodbye to that place, which was tiny and messy but full of memories. As I prepared to move, I noticed that every corner of that house seemed to be filled with personal stories all of a sudden and everywhere I looked seemed both familiar and strange. Neighbors used to gather together and cook for each other in the tiny kitchen. Outside of my window was a small garden which was my only view in quarantine. There was a platform upstairs which was my secret corner for reading. I realized that time will pass no matter how much you hate or enjoy each moment, things will change no matter how hard you try to keep them the same, and people will leave no matter how special they are to you. Parting is the normal state of life. Just like the seeds of a dandelion, which fly away and grow wherever they land, over time you will find you have new friends and fresh dreams. You cannot always stay in the same place but have to change somehow.

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Moving is both an end and a beginning.

After the unexpected but fairly smooth transportation of my things, I finally moved to my current apartment energetically and excitedly. The moment I opened the new room’s door, I felt a sense of independence and freshness. The structure of my new apartment is fairly similar to my former one, and the mattress is just the same. When I laid on the new bed the first night, I did not even realize that I had moved. A new room means a unique start, and you can chat with different neighbors, make new friends, and explore novel communities, a treasure in this pandemic since I have forgotten how long it was since I last talked to a stranger face to face. Also, it is always fun to decorate your new room  and to make it a private utopia of sorts. Moving was especially tiring in this unusual time; however, that transition, just like this time, will come to pass.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: ADJUSTING TO LIFE ABROAD

By Nathan Smith

[5 minute read]

Going off to university can be daunting. It’s even more daunting to go off to study in another country, far away from your mental and emotional safety nets and the warm embrace of friends and family. For many people, this is a deterrent, a “yea, it sounds good, but I don’t think I could do it.” For me, however, it wasn’t just an idea. It was a tangible goal. 

It’s a rainy November evening in Lexington, Kentucky. I’m up to my neck in boredom, anxiety and stress. I’ve just about had it with the mundane routine of waking up, going to class, coming back and doing nothing else. I speak aloud, “I’m tired of this, I’m supposed to be doing something bigger, something greater than sitting in a dorm in Lexington, Kentucky.” I had a lot of ambition and hunger for something more, but I did not quite know what that “more” was. So a few weeks go by and I keep thinking over what I can do to get out of the University of Kentucky. I tell my mother that I want to transfer, and of course she isn’t pleased, thinking my living set up is perfect and that the school is nice, but I explain to her that I want more, that I’m supposed to be doing bigger things. 

Fast forward to the end of the semester, and I’ve decided. I’m going to Europe. The casual reader’s probably going, “Kentucky to Europe? How the hell does one even reach that line of thinking?” Besides getting an immense chuckle from me, you’d also get a pretty intense breakdown of the situation. Truth is, Europe was not something that just came out of nowhere. I had applied to European universities out of high school, most notably Glasgow, Edinburgh, Richmond American University of London, Oxford and American University of Paris, receiving admits to Glasgow, Richmond and Edinburgh. So in many ways, I saw switching institutions as a simple act of finishing something which I had held a propensity for already.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

After a tumultuous summer, many applications, arguments with my mum, being dissuaded by other family members, and lots of prayer, I ended up on a Delta flight to Glasgow to study at THE University of Glasgow in October- a full 2 weeks after the semester had started. Initially, I was scared senseless. Truthfully, I went through a period of time where I was so anxious, homesick, scared and lonely that I didn’t go to any classes for a month. I would go stretches of weeks without attending classes. The combined 2 mile walk to campus up Glaswegian hills every day, the loneliness, and simply being scared kept me from going to my lectures. 

It wasn’t until the very end of my first semester at Glasgow that I truly began to settle in. I began to become more active in class discussions, meeting with professors, going to events and truly feeling like I was a student at the university. How? Truthfully, it was a combination of things. One thing that helped me to adjust was getting active in the dating scene on Tinder and actually talking to other people. I began hanging out with people, going to the cinema, clubs, and truly integrating into student life.

Continue reading USC Student Voices Defining Home