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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: University Park, Exposition Park, and Adams-Normandie

 

South of the 10 and west of the 110 Freeways are the neighborhoods of University Park, Exposition Park, and Adams-Normandie. In under 4 square-miles, the area is most notably home to the 226-acre campus of the University of Southern California (USC). In 1880, the private research university opened its doors at $15 a term to 53 students with 10 faculty. Though, it costs more than $15 a term today. USC currently educates 44,000 students with a cadre of 4,000 full-time faculty.

Just across the street from the university is Exposition Park. In 1872, it originally opened as Agricultural Park, a private racetrack and exhibition fairground for farmers to gather and discuss the latest and greatest in agricultural practices and technology. Today, the 160-acre area houses multiple notable features, such as the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center, and the California African American Museum. It is also home to the LA84 Foundation/John C. Argue Swim Stadium, which was first constructed for and used in the 1932 Summer Olympics, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. On sunny days, the 7-acre Exposition Park Rose Garden is a favorite photo backdrop for weddings and quinceañeras.

Though these institutions and buildings are prominent in the neighborhood, this region of Los Angeles is also home to one of the most ethnically diverse, yet economically divided, communities in the county. Residents comprise of mostly low-income families and college students. Yet, in recent years, there has been a growing trend of gentrified sections of the neighborhood. Despite the socio-economic differences that exist, places to eat in the community offer a common appeal that bring people of different walks of life together: good food. From the paleta cart to a burger counter, many food spots along the corridors of the community offer unpretentious fare to families gathering for after-church meals, couples on their first dates, and college friends looking for post-game grub.

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Himalayan House

The Himalayas, Sanskrit for “Abode of Snow,” make up a mountain range that exists between the Tibetan Plateau and the plains of the Indian subcontinent. Serving Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine, the Himalayan House pays homage to the many cultural influences that exist within this geographic region. If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine, this is a great place to try it. Like most “first” meal experiences, your taste buds may try to recall prior experiences. Indian cuisine may come to mind since it is more ubiquitous to the area, but there are many distinctive and unique qualities about Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine that don’t exactly compare such as spice profiles and cooking techniques. Some distinctive dishes include Momo (steamed Tibetan-style dumplings), Yak Chilli (sautéed yak meat), and Khasi Ko Masu (goat curry).

Himalayan House: 1277 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (213) 262-7897

Himalayan House
Himalayan House. | Photo: Courtesy of Christine Tran
 

La Barca

La Barca serves plentiful portions of Mexican food and is regarded a neighborhood institution among local students and residents. El Coloso Burrito (Colossal Burrito) is one of its more popular items. It takes up most of the plate and is sometimes, but not always, shared. La Barca is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in-between meal hangouts. This sit-down restaurant has an indoor space with an outdoor feel. Given the local love it receives, wait times and loudness are expected. Patrons congregate for every occasion from happy hour with friends to weekend meals with the family.

La Barca: 2414 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (323) 735-6567

La Barca
La Barca. | Photo: Courtesy of Christine Tran
 

La Taquiza Mexican Grill

La Taquiza has a signature item called the mulita, consisting of cheese, your choice of protein, and guacamole sandwiched between two handmade tortillas. Unlike a quesadilla, a mulita has a nice filling-to-tortilla ratio that will make you think “taco sandwich” instead. In addition to this popular item, La Taquiza has a diverse and extensive menu that offers lighter options such as grilled seafood and salads. This casual food spot is great for all-occasion dining with a nice selection of aguas frescas (Mexican fruit beverages). For the manteca (lard) conscious diner, La Taquiza prides itself in not using any in its food.

La Taquiza Mexican Grill: 3009 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (213) 741-9795

La Taquiza
La Taquiza. | Photo: Courtesy of Christine Tran
 

Revolutionario North African Tacos

From its pop-up beginnings to a brick and mortar today, Revolutionario serves up North African tacos and Japanese-Peruvian ceviches. The culinary connection between North African and Mexican street cuisine has drawn in many locals and intrigued visitors alike. Revolutionario, as in its name, invites patrons to “Join the Food Revolution” upon entering. Perhaps after a meal at Revolutionario, your notion of food identity will change. This casual dining spot offers taco selections like black eyed pea falafel, duck hash, and pozole tagine. You can top your food selections with pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, and/or pineapple kimchi.

Revolutionario North African Tacos: 1436 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (424) 223-3526

Revolutionario
Revolutionario. | Photo: Courtesy of Christine Tran
 

Tracey’s Belizean Restaurant

Belize is a small nation situated along the Caribbean Sea, with Mexico as its neighbor to the north and Guatemala to the west. Belizean cuisine is a delicious reflection of these influences. Tracey’s offers plentiful servings of popular selections like oxtail, stew beef, and red snapper. Starring alongside the main dish are the red beans and rice with plantains. Other items popular on the menu are fry jacks (fried dough), lemon pie, and jam roll. With such tasty foods, sometimes supply may be lower than demand, so be flexible upon ordering. With limited seating, this casual place is a popular spot for take-out and small dine-in groups.

Tracey’s Belizean Restaurant: 3810 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90062 (323) 735-2166

Tracey's Belizean Restaurant
Tracey's Belizean Restaurant. | Photo: Courtesy of Christine Tran

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