The college social scene is a meeting of opposites – it’s a careful balance between trying new experiences and building comfortable routines. You move in with strangers and find the perfect seat in lecture; you check out that unusual club meeting and look forward to the annual homecoming game. TLT Food, a restaurant within walking distance to UCLA, seems to share the co-ed mentality that curiosity should coincide with comfort. Upscale California flavors – like sushi-grade ahi in a chipotle honey slaw and braised pork belly topped with pico de gallo – can be found in the low-key likes of tacos and nachos, creating a menu that’s intriguing yet approachable. Come here to feel like a wide-eyed freshman, even if it’s been years since you last swiped your student ID.
Gather your friends on rows of reflective benches that match the dark slate hue covering most of the restaurant. Lime green details and natural wood planks soften the dark shade, and large windows at the front door bring in plenty of natural light. Start with a round of the featured limeade flavor, like guava or banana, and then order the aforementioned pork belly nachos for the table. Keep sharing and pass a green rice bowl that’s packed with chimichurri rice, pickled veggies, miso radish and an optional layer of carnitas toward empty plates. Later, bite into a seared ahi tuna taco and its savory slaw, or opt for the rich flavor of the blue crab grilled cheese. Sure, it’s a feast fit for the intern set. But when a meal can be striking and familiar, the emotions that are so common to campus-dwellers can be felt by anyone looking to grab a bite to eat.