Roy Choi’s LocoL Skewered in Pete Wells’ No-Star Review
Chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi set out to do something several years ago that started a trend in the world of high-end chefs: Open up a healthy, classy, fast-food restaurant. LocoL — now with several locations in California — serves up carefully crafted fried chicken and burgers, but Pete Wells, The New York Times food critic, was not impressed. Wells awarded LocoL zero stars after an underwhelming experience at the Oakland location.
To be fair, Wells praised the coffee and the urban, attuned environment of the fast-food restaurant, saying, “If Locol can create environments like this across the country, it would be a major achievement.” But that’s where his praises stopped.
Wells was baffled by the chicken noodle soup that contained neither chicken nor noodles, called the chili bland, and compared the burgers and chicken to fare you’d find at a McDonald’s, a school cafeteria, or Boy Scout camp.
“Like a McNugget, Locol’s chicken is an amalgam of chicken bits invisibly bound together,” Wells wrote. “Inside a thin sheath of fried coating, this composite of ground meat is mysteriously bland and almost unimaginably dry. It can be had as a single patty between buns with coleslaw, as the Fried Chicken Burg, or in a paper cup, with barbecue sauce, as bite-size Chicken Nugs. But the best thing to do with it is pretend it doesn’t exist.”
He ended by giving Choi and Patterson some advice if they want to expand on their fast-food concept: Work on the menu.
“The neighborhoods Locol is targeting have serious nutritional problems, from hunger to obesity, but the solution isn’t to charge people for stuff that tastes like hospital food,” he wrote. “The most nutritious burger on earth won’t help you if you don’t want to eat it.”
It seems that Choi was unfazed by the negative review and left a response on his Instagram account here where he ended with a zinger that took a dig at Wells’ privilege, saying “It compelled him to write something he knows would hurt a community that is already born from a lot of pain and struggle.”