As Downtown booms with hot new restaurants, rooftop bars and plush lofts, USC's University Park neighborhood follows suit with some new eateries. From tapas and happy hour at one of the city's top wine bars to custom-built burgers, meal deals in and around the USC campus are affordable and satisfying. Whether you're pre-gaming, cruising through the California African American Museum or seeing a show at the Shrine Auditorium, check out these cheap eats under $10. Fight (and eat) on!
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Whether you're on your way to class or need to shake off a long day, the Lab Gastropub—located on USC's campus—is a great place to grab a drink and a bite and "hoozah" your way through happy hour. The outdoor seating is a perfect spot to enjoy a light breeze, while the long, sleek tables give the interior a welcoming, upscale cafeteria-style feel. Dropping in for a happy hour drink is a must ($4 dollar beers, anyone?), as is the truffle mac and cheese ($12), at least once.
The Pizza Studio, a graduate of the LA school of build-your-own-pizzas, brings its own version of customizable pies—from rosemary herb crust to truffle salt—to the USC area. For those who are too indecisive to build their own pizza ($8) or are looking to save a couple of dollars, the "starving artist" option ($6) offers pre-made creations such as the traditional meat eater’s favorite—aka pepperoni—and white pie with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, freshly grated mozzarella and arugula on a rosemary herb crust.
Stop into this industrial-styled space for lunch or an iced coffee, but good luck making your way back to the office or class, as Urbnmrkt serves just as well as a clean-cut workspace. The sandwiches and create-your-own salads are fresh and quickly prepared to accompany your busy schedule. We like the chicken panini ($6.29) and the Urbn Soul burger ($5.99). The monthly specials such as $1.50 tacos are a steal and can’t be missed. Tip: Be sure to hold onto your rewards card—buy ten lunch combos (sandwich/salad + drink + chips, fruit or cookie) and get your eleventh free.
Breakfast should be celebrated; after all, it is the most important meal of the day. This flapjack hot spot churns out morning comfort food seven days a week. Regularly filled with Trojans, Jacks N Joe features an all-day breakfast menu that's as lively as its patrons. From Jacks Banana WTF Pancakes ($6.85) to the Denver Not Boulder Omelet ($8.75), fueling up has never been so creative. If you're venturing out on the weekend, get there early or join the line that starts building before doors open. But we promise, it's worth the wait.
Finding a Mexican restaurant in LA is easy, but settling on a great one, on the other hand, might seem impossible. When in the USC area, Trojans migrate to this local hole-in-the-wall for mouth-watering enchiladas and margaritas—don’t miss the beef burrito. Make sure you brush up on your Spanish: The menu listings are just as authentic as the food.
What's better than a juicy burger for less than ten bucks? One built from scratch, with an epic list of toppings. Built Custom Burger has made eating burgers simpler and tastier than ever. Step one, choose your protein: options include hormone and antibiotic-free beef, all-natural turkey, all-natural chicken breast or housemade vegan veggie. Then, customize your burger with seven types of buns (including two types of green wraps) and 14 different sauces—the eight-step process can get intense. We suggest you take a look at the menu and make notes beforehand, or start with the Simply Built combo—burger + fries + soda for $9.75.
Satisfy your ethnic food cravings at this shopping center that’s as lively as it is diverse—from vegan Indian at the Village Marketplace (where the dahl is to die for) to Yucatán classics at Chichen Itza, your palate will be just as overwhelmed as your eyes. Be sure to pick up a couple of Mexican-themed trinkets at the gift shop on your way home.
USC sorority girls, grad students and professors pack in alongside the DTLA after-work crowd at this wine bar whose esoteric, terroir-driven menu changes as frequently as the attention span of its patrons. Chalkboard walls list a constantly rotating menu of red, white, sparkling and dessert wines by the glass. Drop in for happy hour Monday nights (5-7pm) when Cal-Med bites are $5 and wines by the glass are half off.
If you're looking for a new workplace or a good ol' cup of joe, this is it. Bacaro’s owners are back—on the same street, in fact—with coffee, pastries, fresh juices and plenty of power outlets. Take a seat in the spacious and warmly lit cafe, and get cozy with your favorite book or zone out with your physics flashcards. Order the Protein Boost salad ($8.75) or a classic club sandwich ($6.99) on your study break. And if you've really lost track of time, travel home with a "Meal in a Bag" ($12-$13) filled with a protein (chicken, salmon, tilapia), carb (bulgar, whole rice, cracked wheat) and seasonal and fresh veggies.
If you're looking for sushi, shabu-shabu, sake and hookah, find it all at this Japanese/Middle-Eastern one-stop spot. Start with a handcrafted caterpillar roll ($14) and pair it with a green apple sojutini ($10). (They may not keep the doctor away, but they will make your day.) Take advantage of weekday happy hour from 5pm to 7pm when beers are $3, sojutinis are $5 and all sake is buy one, get one free. Or even better, reverse happy hour Wednesdays from 10pm to midnight get you a late night hump-day hang.