Last time we checked in on Locol in Watts, Calif., Uproxx’s Ben Esch dropped a superlative filled piece about the innovative restaurant that’s transforming America’s fast food scene. Founded by star chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Locol hopes to bring healthy, smartly sourced food to America’s poorest neighborhoods. But — Ben wrote in no uncertain terms — you don’t go there for the message, you go for the flavor.
Locol isn’t a symbol, it isn’t a charity, and it isn’t a feel good story. Locol is — we hope — the future of fast food, and the future looks goddamn amazing.
Esch went on to wax hilarious/philosophic about half the dishes on the menu from the chicken nugs:
These nuggets are crisp, but not too greasy, and the chicken inside is moist and flavorful, but cut with enough ancient grain to be as healthy as a deep fried bit of arbitrary chicken shape has any right being.
To the carnitas foldie:
Unlike most fast food restaurants, Locol gives a small portion of delicious, tomatillo salsa tinged carnitas that subtly flavors the beans beneath, instead of bamboozling the consumer with a taco filled with large quantities of low-quality, low-price pork.
To the chili:
Ordering chili from a fast food place is usually an encapsulation of poor decision-making and lingering regret that rivals timeshare purchases and art school degrees. But the chili at Locol was amazing — from the crisp crackers on top, the spicy hot sauce, the gooey cheese, the previously-mentioned beef, and a layer of rice at the bottom to help absorb those flavors and stretch a tasty snack into a satisfying $6 meal.
To his beloved cheeseburger:
But after the first bite of that cheeseburger, I wasn’t thinking about good causes or food deserts (Choi’s preferred term for neighborhoods that don’t have access to good food). I was only thinking one, very loud, and soon to be repeated exclamation:
He even reviewed the coffee, which led Roy Choi to fire a friendly shot his way:
This coffee was rich and sweetened with condensed milk, and had such a distinct hint of chocolate, that I asked Chef Choi if they added syrup to the mix. He insisted the chocolate flavor came only from the roasting of the bean and “all the weed you smoke.” This felt like the most appropriately Roy Choi of all the possible responses to my question.
Ben came back from his interview so hyped that he got the rest of us on board and we went all in on the great food and even better vibes. This week, we sent a camera crew to Locol’s flagship location to talk with employees about what makes the restaurant so special. Take a look!