As a person living in America, the land of the opportunity, you should have noticed by now that the opportunities aren’t the same for everyone. That some people have to work harder than others to overcome challenges. That others have doors opened for them just because of the high school they went to.
It is a place of assumptions, predispositions and stereotypes. We all have a choice to roll with these and stick with the status quo. It is the easy way to go. No harm or disappointment if you don’t reach or try. You also don’t get improvement or joy without trying to reach for the impossible.
When Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson decided to open the first Locol in Watts they didn’t just reach for the stars. They brought a community with them with the hope to lift more people up.
If you don’t know a lot about the national food scene you might not have heard of either of these guys. Making the fact that they opened a new concept fast food restaurant in Watts sound cool, but not particularly a landmark moment. Here is a quick recap on these two.
Patterson made his mark cooking in the Bay Area. Starting his own restaurants that gathered four star reviews and much acclaim from a discerning group of eaters in San Francisco. He has been nominated for multiple prestigious awards including some James Beard awards.
Choi made his name as a food truck owner. Doesn’t sound fancy? He helped put food trucks on the map. If you have seen the movie Chef you know more about Choi than you think. Back when most of the trucks were traditional taco trucks that served construction workers and occasionally stopped at office parks, he created a Korean inspired taco truck and parked it in Venice.
These chefs could have gone about their business making more amazing restaurants in affluent areas. They still do this, but they are now also making a name as the guys behind a fast food revolution. Creating quality fast food, at affordable prices and putting these joints in neighborhoods that have been overlooked. They are not only serving food they are looking for ways to give back to the community.
This is the belief of these chefs and the reason they started Locol
“We fundamentally believe that wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food. We believe that fast food restaurants can truly empower the communities they currently underserve. We believe that the giant corporations that feed most of America have degraded our communities by maximizing profits over decades. We believe that chefs should feed America, and not suits.”
Not only did these amazing people open a quality fast food restaurant in a place that really needed it, they employed people from the neighborhood. They sell merch, probably knowing people like me would seek this out as a destination, but mostly to make some money that could be put back into the community. Check out the video on the Merch page to hear Roy explain why they sell it. As a bonus you will see some of the amazing people who work there and get a feel for the energy around this unique restaurant.
Ever since I heard about the opening I have wanted to visit Locol.
We ended up at Locol as a much-needed pit stop on our way from LAX to Palm Springs. After a 3-hour delay on our flight we were starving. Realizing we were heading east and that Watts is East of the airport it made sense to stop.
Walking into the restaurant I felt like I had been welcomed into someone’s home. There is no glass on the windows only screens. So there was a nice breeze coming through the entire place. The employees were chatting, singing and people from outside were coming and going. I could hear all the noises from the street and watch the people go by. The kids with their ice cream on a warm day were particularly entertaining. We were sitting next to some kind of community group having a meeting about ways to impact the neighborhood. I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed.
Those employees are impressive and, rightfully, proud. It shows in their service and the food they make. The young girl that took our order was polite, helpful and patient with us the first time we ordered. Probably a little bit amused when we came back and ordered a second time.
The crew cooking the food was probably happy to hear how much we loved the food. Actually I am sure of it, because when we finished our second order – which included messy chili, a taco and a chicken sandwich – they brought us a couple of desserts on the house.
We finished what we could of the ice cream, which unfortunately wasn’t as much as I wanted, but I was stuffed. When we got up to leave it was like leaving your local bar with all the regulars. We stood up waved and said goodbye to everyone and received a warm goodbye in return. This has never happened to me at a McDonald’s.
It felt like a friend’s house and I kind of miss them and want to go back and visit again soon.