Three Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons are posed dynamically, hovering over a skeletal carcass -- this is the dramatic centerpiece of the Natural History Museum of L.A. County's new Dinosaur Hall, which opens to the public tomorrow, July 16. It seems the largest meat eating dinos favored duckbills and other horned dinosaurs as sustenance. Exhibits further detail fossil evidence that predatory dinosaurs (like the Allosaurus) had teeth that functioned like steak knives, cutting through flesh.
Hungry yet? Somehow visiting the Natural History Museum and the gleaming new exhibits of the Dinosaur Hall induces instant hunger pangs, particularly in the younger set. You may salivate while surveying the fossilized showcases of dinosaur mealtimes and poop (called coprolite and prized by the museum's paleontologists). Included in the museum's major makeover is a new basement grill, set to open next month. Until then, there's a temporary grab-and-go express café that offers salads, wraps and sandwiches.
Within walking distance are many more choices to satisfy famished omnivores.
Nearby, on the first floor of the California Science Center, the Rose Garden Café gets props from Natural History Museum employees who recommend it as a healthy alternative to the center's fast food eats. With views of the blooming Rose Garden outside, the café features soups, salads and sugary desserts.
A 10-minute walk east, on the adjacent USC campus is the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Not far from the iconic Tommy Trojan statue, there's a wealth of fast food options (from California Pizza Kitchen to Panda Express to Lemonade), positioned in a vast, well air-conditioned hall. Coed eye candy is a plus. Comfy couches and umbrellas fill the outdoor patio, which is much quieter during summer session. Until late August, the center is closed weekends. Moreton Fig is USC's fine dining restaurant, and feels like a Craft-lite. From the Lark Creek restaurant group (founded by Bradley Ogden), menus here stress seasonality. Happy Hour resumes August 22.
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Across Figueroa, amongst the fast, casual eateries of Chipotle, Peet's and more, there's a Chick-fil-A, home to the celebrated fried chicken sandwich and waffle-cut fries previously dissected on Squid Ink. And if you've never been to the mini-food court at Mercado La Paloma (Mo-Chica and Chichen Itza are the draw), it is also close by, just to the east of the 110. Mo-Chica is known for its inspired mix of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine; ceviche and soups are memorable. Chichen Itza has meaty Yucatan specialties like cochinita pibil and bistec a la yucateca.
Consider bringing a picnic; tables dot Exposition Park, some under aged Moreton Bay Fig trees. Dine al fresco just like the dinosaurs, imagining what duckbill must have tasted like (chicken?).