Category Archives: Food

Uncover LA: Echo Park

By Tracy Castillo

When foreigners, or even non Southern Californianers, hear someone mouth the word “Los Angeles”, their immediate thoughts are probably overtaken with images of palm trees and the Hollywood Hills, but there is actually much more to Los Angeles than the  popular tourist attractions. Over the last decade, Los Angeles has created a large cultural hub that spans from countries and cities all over the world. There’s Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and the list keeps going on and on. All of these hubs are filled with great cultural vibrancies consisting of great restaurants with native dishes, and stores stocked with the country’s native products. I am lucky enough to live in one of these cultural hubs just five miles north of campus, Echo Park.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Being in a situation in which I had to a find a home that did not require a one year lease, I ended having to look for housing outside the USC area and in the Echo Park area. Though I miss the convenience of living just a couple blocks from school, I enjoy living in this colorful neighborhood more. Echo Park is filled with taco trucks, coffee shops, and health food restaurants (seemingly on almost every corner). You may wonder what cultural category Echo Park falls into, but it doesn’t quite fir into any one box. I would say that it has a culture of its own, a Los Angeles culture where all walks of life have come together to respect and coexist within each other’s customs. For example, is it not uncommon to see a young artistic crowd patiently waiting to order authentic Mexican food from the taco truck camped out in front of the Ralphs’s, or a native Latino family walking into a vegan donut shop. These are instances that show how two very different sets of people are embracing each other’s customs.

So if you ever find yourself stumbling into Echo Park, here are some suggestions. If you want great inexpensive Mexican food, you must try the taco stand off of Alvarado St and Scott St. This stand is set up every evening in a vacant parking lot next to the Autozone. Here you will find a simple yet refined menu that can whip out anything from tacos to mulitas. If you’re curious to try an ever-popular vegan restaurant, Sage is the  perfect one. Sage is an all vegan restaurant that serves everything from Biscuits & Gravy to a Cauliflower Steak Dinner and a Brownie Sundae, but don’t let the word, “vegan” scare you, trust me, it is all very tasty!

And after dining at Sage, you can walk down to Echo Park Lake and rent a peddling boat and float around the lake or you can hang out by the grassy patches and read a book, listen to music, or simply gaze at the lake.

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Downtown Eats

By Shivam Goyal

As most USC students know, there are plenty of places to eat around the school area. Ethnic cuisine, fast food, and even some awesome dessert places are all located within a mile of our beautiful campus. However, USC students also have another great asset on hand – Downtown LA, where several fun restaurant atmospheres exist and are perfect for when you want to try something new. I spent last summer trying to discover new eateries in downtown so that I’d have new food choices during the school year. I found out that downtown has a multitude of cuisines for all different people, whether they are looking for something fast, formal, or even unique!

Wokcano (800 W. 7th Street) is a Japanese sushi and noodle restaurant located about 7-minutes away from the USC Campus (when driving). They provide premium sushi for a low cost, as well as an affordable happy hour. I would describe the environment as casual and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for small portions of Asian cuisine on any given night. I tried the Pad Thai and it was one of the best noodle dishes I’ve had since coming to USC.

Another excellent choice, for those of you looking for a quick meal or drink, is Sixth Street Tavern (630 W. 6th Street). It is a small bar with excellent appetizers and a relatively affordable happy hour menu. This restaurant caters primarily American dishes, with a few ethnic options mixed in as well. I have tried the Grilled Cheese at Sixth Street and I will definitely be going back for more!

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Life as a Foodie

By Jasmine Zahedi

A self-proclaimed foodie, I always look forward to tackling restaurants on my “must-eat” list. And living in Los Angeles, where the food culture is so widespread, makes this the easiest and the most fun activity to do on weekends. I make a concerted effort to go somewhere new with my friends at least once a week. This way not only do I get an excuse to do something that I love—eat—but I also get to share this passion with people that are close to me.

Currently, my list has 40 eateries, organized by location, that I have yet to visit and 64 places that I have already had the fortune of trying out. These numbers might seem crazily high, but I started this list my freshman year and it only continues to grow. I add restaurants to my list mainly after hearing about them from other foodie friends or after seeing them on Instagram. My personal favorite food Instagrams are eater_LA and dineLA. I love seeing their pictures on my feed because it inspires me to continue on my foodie adventure.

Recently, I visited Zinc Café and Market during a roomie brunch, and I highly recommend it as a place for a relaxing meal and maybe even as a place to study and get some work done. I am also a huge fan of the chashu hash skillet from JiST Café in Little Tokyo, anything from Daily Dose Café, and the ricotta toast from Sqirl. As you can see, I am extremely partial to brunch.

Being a foodie is not limited to living in Los Angeles. When I was an intern in Taipei last summer for eight weeks, I discovered a food culture that was almost greater than that in Los Angeles. Taiwanese people take pride in the various 小吃 (xiǎochī), which means snacks, that they have to offer, and nowhere is this more evident than in the crowded and bustling night markets found throughout the large cities. While in Taiwan, my friends and I visited night markets at least once a week and fawned over the shaved ice, the scallion pancake wraps, and all the fresh fruit. In addition, I religiously followed A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei, which not only categorized restaurants by price range but also by location in relation to subway stops.

Whenever I start talking about Taiwan with someone who has been before, the first thing that comes up is always (and inevitably) food. Have you tried the boba from that little street cart in Gongguan? Or the scallion pancake wrap with eggs and sausage from the vendor in Dongmen? The answer is always YES because Taiwan has such a big food culture that everyone knows about and participates in.

I’ve honestly noticed that a significant amount of conversations I have with friends revolve around food; that just shows how important food is to all of us. Food brings people together and connects people of various cultures and walks of life so, if you’re looking to connect with someone, try a food-related opener. The results might surprise you!

Featured image by Eaters Collective on Unsplash