While working on his MBA as part of the FlexWeekend program at the Rady School of Management, Lijun Liu noticed that the campus kitchen lacked diversity. Although there are more than 15 restaurants in the University Centers offering everything from build-your-own dishes at Seed + Sprout to wings and pub fare at Dirty Birds, there have been quite a few Asian food offerings.
“UCSD only had Chinese-American food,” Liu said. “I wanted to bridge that gap by bringing authentic Chinese cuisine to the campus and to be a part of the Asian culture here.”
Liu and his business partner, Chef Tony Wu, are the masterminds behind Fan-Fan, one of the new restaurants that opened its doors this spring in the campus’ North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.
Fan-Fan, which serves Hunan and Asian dishes at affordable prices, aims to be a home away from home for Asian students by providing a warm atmosphere based on innovation, teamwork and quality. Serving dishes ranging from spicy tofu, fried black pepper pork (a Hunan classic) and Van Van’s signature lobster tails, everyone can find something to enjoy. This isn’t Liu and Wu’s first restaurant partnership either; The Taste of Hunan at Scripps Ranch also boasts spicy and aromatic flavors, and Crazy Duck at Poway offers a variety of dishes featuring roast duck.
“I am very happy to serve this community. UCSD means a lot to me,” Liu said. “My wife and I are graduates and live nearby. This has been a rewarding journey from start to finish, especially seeing the students leave their comments on the wall of sticky notes. We plan to sponsor student groups and give back to the campus that brought us together.”
North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood is also home to Shōwa Ramen, Julian Sage’s newest restaurant in a lineup that includes The Taco Stand (multiple locations in the San Diego area) and Himitsu (La Jolla). Known for its blend of authentic traditional flavors and elegant modern design, Shōwa serves classic dishes like shoyu, tonkotsu, and spicy miso ramen. Diners can also choose from a range of donburi dishes, salads and appetizers, with options that will please meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
“I really enjoyed the self ordering at the entrance and the staff who were very friendly,” said Eleanor Turner, a sophomore. “The design of the restaurant itself has the atmosphere of an authentic Japanese ramen place that stands out from other dining areas on campus.”
The restaurant takes its name and inspiration from Japan’s Shōwa period (1920s and ’80s), an era of intense modernization that drew on history to keep ancient traditions alive. This balance of tradition and innovation, new and old, shines through in Shōwa delicacies and architecture alike.
“The response from UCSD students has been very rewarding,” Hakim said. “The community embraces us and we are happy to be a part of it. Anything we can do to make people’s lives happy is why we are here – and that is all about hospitality.”
Not all of the new restaurants on campus are in the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood. Curry Up Now, Price Center’s newest addition, has stormed the campus and continues to surprise and delight diners with Indian street fare. With offerings such as smashed samosas, vada pav (mashed potato pancake served inside a bun with sauce and pepper) and Kashmiri lamb burrito, Curry Up Now offers a decidedly new twist on familiar flavours.
“We serve authentic Indian food in non-Indian formats such as burritos, tacos, quesadillas and pizzas,” said Akash Kapoor, CEO and Chief TroubleMaker. “Basically, we are still a food cart brand. It is in our DNA!”
Originally from the Bay Area, Curry Up Now started as a single food truck in 2009. With seven brick-and-mortar locations and three food trucks, the business has grown but maintained its down-to-earth roots and loving care for customers and employees alike. Kapoor shared that the Curry Up Now team was “extremely excited” to receive an invite to the Rate Center and bring Indian street food to San Diego.
Their favorite part about being part of the UCSD community? “Seeing the smiles on the faces of the hungry students,” Kapoor said. “Watching their satisfaction right after eating and preparing food while they are standing in line is amazing.”
These restaurant openings represent another step in implementing the comprehensive vision for on-campus retail developed by a panel of UCSD students and other campus stakeholders. The goal is to provide students, faculty, and staff with access to a range of affordable restaurants, entertainment, products and services offered by popular local small business owners. Diversity and quality are meant to reflect many of San Diego’s vibrant urban neighborhoods.
Address: 9625 Scholars Road North, Suite 0125 La Jolla, CA, 92093 (across from The Jeannie)
Opening hours: 10 AM to 8:30 PM from Monday to Friday; 11 AM – 8:30 PM from Saturday to Sunday.
The list is available on the Fan-Fan website.
Address: 9625 Scholars Drive North MC 0305, La Jolla, CA 92093 (in the Social Science Public Engagement Building opposite the power plant)
Opening hours: 11 AM – 8 PM from Monday to Saturday; Sunday closed.
The list is available on the Shōwa Ramen website.
Address: 9700 Gilman Dr Pmb 275, La Jolla, CA 92093 (next to Sunshine Market)
Opening Hours: 11 AM – 9 PM from Monday to Friday; 11 AM – 8 PM from Saturday to Sunday
The list is available on the Curry Up Now website.