The heavy renovation and construction down the street in Downtown LA has sent myself, and likely many a USC student, into daydreams and excited jitters. There is small chatter about a huge facelift for the currently-depressing Macy’s shopping complex, and it seems that new adventures are continuing to pop up on every corner.
Now in the final stages of retail additions (though their website claims even more storefronts will arrive in time for Spring 2015), FIGat7th — at the intersection of Figueroa Boulevard and and 7th Street — is easily accessible via the Metro Exposition line, and is filled to the brim with everything a college kid needs: Target for the dorm essentials, Zara and H&M for some quick back-to-school and theme party shopping, a Sports Chalet for the gym peeps, and of course, lots and lots of amazing eats.
While there are a few notable eateries scattered throughout the complex from this initial stage of development (Sprinkles and Mendocino Farms), “Taste,” the official food court of FIGat7th, is the gem of the joint. Located on the very first floor, Taste is not your typical food court.
Opening its first storefront in 2002 at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles, Loteria Grill’s chef Jimmy Shaw attempts to bring authentic Mexican flavors to Angeleno’s eager mouths. Inspired by his own childhood meals, just reading Loteria Grill’s menu makes your mouth water. Serving up fresh ceviche, simple burritos, and great little bites like platano frito (fried plantains, served with crema mexicana), Loteria Grill will make both Mexican-food enthusiasts and virgins happy campers.
A company started by some of USC’s very own best and brightest, Pizza Studio took campus by storm when it opened up its shop below the still-standing Starbucks last year. With their super cheap “Starving Artists” specials ($5.99 for any pre-determined pizza), their Unlimited topping pizza that is most definitely within college-student budget ($8.99), a topping bar and crust choices that rival any other place I’ve frequented (try the firecracker crust… with a huge glass of water handy), and fresh salads on hand for those of us looking for some substance with our indulgence, look no further. Not to mention, as a proud New Yorker who loves herself a slammin’ slice of pizza, I am unabashed to say that this is some of the best pizza in Los Angeles that you won’t go broke for, chain or not.
Another creation of Jimmy Shaw’s, Torta Company, Loteria Grill’s brother eatery, specializes in Mexican style sandwiches. Working in partnership with his actual brother, Andy Shaw, Jimmy was determined to make the best torta there ever was. The torta itself actually has an intricate history, which is outlined fully on the Torta Company’s website; long-story short, some run-ins with the French produced a hybrid baguette bread, one that is round rather than long, called a telera. Every torta is built upon a freshly baked telera, and piled high with Mexican flavors. For something classic, go with the Mexican Pulled Pork. Looking for something a little fancier? Try the Sirloin Tips ‘n’ Cheddar, smothered in caramelized onions and jalapeno sauce.
With a parent company like Parks BBQ, Oleego was a no-brainer for Taste. Known for Korean BBQ, the creation of Oleego was to make this somewhat unattainable – but undeniably popular – food more accessible to the general public. What is usually a long and special occasion has been turned into a fast, express service, with (hopefully) no loss in flavor and quality. Reminiscent of an Asian Chipotle, Oleego is very user friendly for those unfamiliar with the Korean BBQ craze, and may be the perfect way to dip your toe in the water before jumping in for the whole feast. For all you Korean BBQ veterans, let us know if its as good as the real thing.
Named one of Los Angeles’ best healthy fast food options by the Huffington Post and CBS LA, Saffron’s mini restaurant, Indus, follows the same model. Though Indus has an abbreviated menu, the staple Indian dishes, such as chicken tikka masala, various curries, and tandoori are present. Indus also boast all-natural ingredients, serves up samosas and garlic naan, and even covers the beverage basics with chai. Sounds like some pretty epic Indian fast food to me.
Still hungry for more? Watch out next week for the best eats inside FIGat7th’s Taste, Part 2.
Pro-Tip: There are a few restos within the FIGat7th complex that are not included within the Taste dining concourse. Sprinkles, California Pizza Kitchen and Morton Steakhouse are located on the top two floors, with City Tavern, Pazzo Gelato, Mendocino Farms and George’s Greek Grill housed right alongside Taste on the first floor.