School's out for summer, which means you have a better chance of getting into the 23rd Street Café without a long wait. This USC hangout is a student magnet for two reasons: Low prices and food that's much more interesting than the same old burgers and fries. Yes, there are burgers on the menu, but also Mexican food, Indian food, and what you really ought to order: Indian-Mexican fusion food.
Owner Gopal Sood came up with the fusion idea last year. He's from Chandigarh in the Punjab and so knows his way around a samosa or two.
As a matter of fact, you can get a samosa sandwich with two of them tucked inside wheat toast along with mint and tamarind chutneys. Or tacos filled with chicken curry or chicken tikka. Or burritos with various Indian chicken fillings or vegetarian mixtures such as spinach chole (spinach and chickpeas), aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) and paneer tikka masala (paneer is Indian fresh cheese). The most popular fusion dish is the chicken tikka masala quesadilla -- grilled chicken pieces in spicy masala sauce inside a flour tortilla.
You'll notice bottles of Cholula hot sauce along with chutneys on the tables. And for a drink, you could try a Mexican mocha or a mango lassi.
Sood offers a guarantee that encourages you to risk these unfamiliar tastes. "You take a bite, you don't like it, you get your money back," he says.
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., the café has seating inside, where you can look at Indian-themed art (that's Pueblo Indian as well as East Indian), or on a back patio where you look out to the old mansions that line the streets of this neighborhood.