Tarek’s Cafe

tarek's cafe

Okay. So you’re new to USF. I understand. You’re a little baby! And there are a whole bunch of you. A whole bunch of little, annoying babies, running around campus all hours of the day, enjoying your new-found freedom, drinking and having sex and sleeping through classes, thinking life is oh-so-wonderful, and generally ruining everything for anyone who has to come near the university for any reason at all. Thanks for that. Eventually, you’re going to be crushed by the cruel realities of life. So enjoy this while it lasts.

For those of us who have already been devastated by exposure to the real world, we have to take delight in all the little things that make life tolerable. And one of those little things, right on the USF campus, tucked away in the NEC building (Northwest Educational Complex??) is a little cafe called Tarek’s.


Tarek’s Cafe is a small beauty, likely to become your favorite on-campus food spot if you pay them a visit. It seems to be decked out to look like a cheap beachside hotel room, with crappy wall art, potted (fake?) plants, and a strange blue bi-fold door that seems to serve no real purpose. If you go to the bathroom, you may for an instant forget that you’re on campus altogether! And Tarek’s is not some chain restaurant; it’s independently owned, something you aren’t going to find anywhere else on campus. Definitely a unique spot.

But what truly makes Tarek’s great is the friendly atmosphere provided by the owners/operators. They are talkative and fun, and will make you feel immediately welcome. And they serve some pretty great food. They have daily specials (which go fast!), and an ever changing list of soups of the day. Add to that their regular breakfast and lunch menus, and you’ve got a pretty respectable list of dishes that you can eat on campus and not feel like you want to kill yourself!

chicken philly cheesesteak

I keep ordering the same thing from Tarek’s. which is stupid because as I mentioned before, their daily specials are popular and delicious. DELICIOUS. That’s a review. But on an average Tarek’s visit (Friday), I will pick up the magnificent chicken Philly cheesesteak. I haven’t even had their regular cheesesteak. Because this one… this is the sandwich. Actually, pictured here is not a sandwich, but a wrap. They had run out of bread that day. But that’s cool! That’s cool. They get busy (lines busy), so I know it happens. Instead of the bread, they packed this bad boy into a tortilla wrap, so that it was bursting with chickeny cheesesteaky goodness. And I added an order of fries for good measure.

inside the chicken philly

Inside we’ve got ourselves the grilled chicken and cheese, obviously, sauteed peppers and onions, lettuce and tomato. I also requested jalapeño peppers (occasionally available) and hot sauce. Obviously, this is not a ‘traditional’ sandwich by any means. It’s just good. I’m okay with this. It’s a bit spicy, a bit greasy, and a lot awesome. The flavors kind of just meld together into one awesome taste, and it is most enjoyable. And surprisingly you don’t feel like death afterwards! Amazing!

The fries are pretty good too. Nothing special, but solid fries, lightly salted. I always dip them in a ketchup/hot sauce hybrid, mostly because Tarek’s makes hot sauce so readily available. They use Texas Pete, which is some pretty decent hot sauce.

awesome brownie things

They also always have little snackies. Such as brownies. Super brownies. They sometimes have baklava, normal-style brownies, and I’ve heard tell of some type of Oreo-Blaster Balls, which I’ve never seen but am told are to die for. And they have plenty of side dishes and seasonal type items, such as watermelon during the summer. I fact, I once went and they gave me like three slices of watermelon for free simply out of the kindness of their hearts!! They do that sometimes. Tarek’s will hook you up.

Basically, it’s the best place to eat on campus, with a great staff making delicious food. Their specials alone are worth going for, as they are pretty much the only place on campus you’ll be able to buy fish from (blackened tuna sandwiches, baked fishes, etc). Good burgers, too. Take a break from the bullshit that is USF, and hit up Tarek’s. as Richard Tarek himself is so fond of saying, “IT’S TAREK TIME.” (Richard Tarek may or may not exist)


oreo blaster balls



  1. Morgan

    Great review! I’m Jeff’s daughter and I can’t say enough about this place! It’s honestly my second home, I’ve grown up with the USF staff coming in and asking me why I wasn’t in school that day or how my vacation went, it’s such a great place to go and hang out. I live in Key West now and they actually have a little place called “Campus Cafe” it’s crazy how similar these places are but there’s no doubt that Tarek’s is better! If you haven’t eaten here, do yourself a favor and make sure it becomes one of your regular spots!

    ..and make sure you try those oreo-blaster things, they really are to die for!

  2. Pingback: Know your options: Eating on campus – Hacks for College

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