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Inside LOCOL ~ Watts

3:15 PM PST on January 27, 2016

It’s been about a week since Roy Choi’s new spot, LocoL, has been open but there are already daily lines out the door. Yes, it comes as no surprise, since most of Choi’s quick service spots tend to draw attention (Kogi, Chego), but what makes LocoL unique is its location. Unlike his other centrally placed restaurants, LocoL is in Watts.

Choi is trying to bring better food to “food deserts,” or underserved communities that lack access to good food. It’s an idea that started back in 2013 at the MAD symposium in Denmark. LocoL in Watts is only the beginning, as the plan is to bring these types of eateries to food deserts all across America. Other targets are set for Oakland and the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. The project is a culinary collaboration with Daniel Patterson of SF Bay restaurant fame. Other culinary minds, like Tonx coffee founder Tony Konecny, and Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, also contributed their skills. Konecny helped with the superb coffee beans served exclusively at LocoL, while Robertson is behind the bread buns holding Locol’s burgers together.


Unless you live close to Watts, going to Locol will be a field trip. About 30 minutes south of Central LA, it’s safe to say that LocoL really is meant for the locals. As of right now, however, the interest in the restaurant and food has attracted non-locals and the media to the spot. It’ll be exciting to see the idea flourish once it becomes a true neighborhood joint.


Now on to the food. Looking at the menu, you’ll see a wide variety of items that will appeal to anyone. Meat and vegetarian options are evenly distributed, as well as various cuisines. You can choose from your typical burgers, to a noodle bowl, veggie tofu stew, chili, and even nuggets. There’s also something called “foldies,” which are somewhat like a quesadilla-taco hybrid that end up tasting more like taquitos. In addition to these, you have various sides, and for dessert, soft serve ice cream.

There’s a great deal of energy at LocoL and it’s exciting to be able to try the first location of many more to come. There will probably be a line when you go, but it moves fast. The team has really gotten the hang of it and you may even spot Roy Choi himself working the kitchen. As for the space, the movable blocks for seating create a sort of communal environment that adds to the ambiance.

Although it is fast food, it’s not hard to see that this is something different. The prices are extremely affordable, which is great for the community, but the food itself is also damn tasty. It’s a win-win situation.



Definitely the star and most popular item on the menu. The Cheeseburg is only $4, but very satisfying and a good-sized burger. The meat patty is juicy with a combination of meat and grains, and is complemented with jack cheese, scallion relish, and “awesome sauce” (made with tomato, onion, garlic, and gochujang).


The Veggie Cheeseburg has the same condiments and tastes very potatoey. It’s one of the more unique veggie burgers I’ve had. The scallion relish and sauce definitely stand out more in the veggie option. The bun holding everything together is also a star. Made of rice flour, it’s crunchy, but airy and chewy at the same time.



Like a quesadilla, but smaller and crispier. You can choose between different fillings like machaca, turkey, and carnitas. It’s more of a snack, but worth trying at just $2.


Chili Bowl

All of their bowls are intriguing and you’ll want to make multiple trips to try them all, but their chili bowl seems like one of the more filling options. Made of beans, rice, cheese, onions, and an assortment of spices topped with crackers. It’s a flavorful, complex bowl that will please any chili lover.


Messy Greens

Nice little add-on if you feel like ordering something healthy. These greens come very mushy, but maybe that’s why they’re “messy.”


Agua Fresca and Coffee

The aguas frescas are thirst quenching and you get two flavors to choose from. We tried the Apple-lime variety and it had a nice sweet and tangy flavor. The iced coffee is strong, but very smooth. You can choose between black or sweet and creamy. It’s $1 coffee, but tastes like something you’d get at a trendy coffee shop in Silver Lake for 3 or 4 times the price.


1950 E 103rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90002

Hours: Open Daily 11am-10pm


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