The New York Times reviews Locol?


There is no reason to spend 1,000 words of the New York Times precious space to say that a fast food restaurant doesn’t have great food. And it’s all the more reprehensible when that restaurant is also trying to change lives, save neighborhoods, and offer nutritional options where there aren’t any.

Wells devoted only 500 of the 1300 words in the article to the food, and about 150 of that 500 were positive. The rest were about the larger enterprise.

Maybe Suter ended up biased by hanging out with Patterson and Choi too much. She seems to be echoing their view that the double-edged sword should swing only one way. Her long piece (which Bookwitch linked to and we discussed above) is more balanced than this one, but it still missed the crucial point that the Watts location is apparently not getting many customers from the neighborhood due to stiff local competition.


From the Suter article, a direct quote from Choi:

“Everyone wants the answer. They want us to have the solution. But we don’t have a solution. We’re just trying to feed and take care of people.”

No one asked him to take care of anyone. And no one asked him to “challenge the binary structure of privileged thought patterns” either. Although I have enjoyed Choi’s food here in LA to a greater or lesser extent, let me share a bias of my own. There was an episode of Top Chef a while back where he was asked to come and judge a particular challenge. I recall him telling Carlos Gaytan (who is Mexican) that his al pastor lacked “soul” or something of that nature in a particularly smug fashion. I think that the conceit of the segment was that everyone somehow missed the mark. Whether or not that be the case, or (even worse) if that was Choi’s actual sentiment, it reeks of a certain insincerity with hues of cultural imperialism. Which leads me to wonder if Choi and Patterson have actually spent time in the communities that they believe they are helping prior to rolling this venture out. Did they do a community needs assessment to discover what the residents actually desire and want? We have seen time and time again in the world of social welfare that efforts based in notions of privilege neither meet the actual needs of the people they purport to serve, nor wind up being successful.

And can we just mention that in the past day or so, Eater has posted no less that three articles indicating that Mr. Wells’ review might have been a bit ill-advised. I enjoyed Wells article far more than those posted on Eater, or the linked Suter article either.

And just to be petty, let me share my bias regarding Patterson. My one meal at Coi was one of the most difficult meals I have ever experienced. It was so relentlessly salty and acidic that I thought that my tongue was going to start waving a white flag. I’m done. For now.


Choi certainly isn’t giving Locol’s food the kind of criticism he blasted at those poor Top Chef contestants. Same goes for Chego, the kung pau noodle bowl I had was mushy bland glop.

I’ve had a lot of great meals at Plum, Haven, and Alfred’s, and a couple good ones at Pot, so I know those guys are capable of making tasty food.


The short rib tacos from the Kogi truck are still delicious and good value. Though my favorite ‘fusion’ taco is probably White Rabbit’s Filipino tacos. The tocino and sisig in particular.

But Kogi is still solid, was ALWAYS mobbed when it rotated through my neighborhood, and I still insist was still the best possible food option at LAX while it was there.


The longevity of Kogi is impressive; while most food trucks these days can barely keep the lights on, Kogi still manages to pull a crowd every time I see them.

Extremely high QPR for a modern food truck too. I actually like them a lot more than I used to because I can get reasonably priced short rib tacos without the atrocious line.


Neither Wells nor Suter addressed the notion that Locol is healthier than regular fast food. I don’t see that it is. The savory dishes seem to reflect the discredited notion that a low-fat, high-carb diet is healthy, and while the sweets may use better ingredients they don’t seem nutritionally different from corporate fast food.

Eatsa seems to have a better model for making fast food that’s healthy, cheap, and tasty.


That is what I was wondering about. When they first announced the project I thought there would be like vegan bowls a la Orsa and Winston or Sqirl made cheap somehow…

Not burgers and fries…

The whole thing seems absurd to me.


The problem I have with the backlash is that it is based on several unquestioned assumptions:
-That they are doing healthier food than say McDs, etc. 25 % wheat added to beef may make it 25% healthier, but this is generally unhealthy fast food as I read the menu.
-That this venture is some sort of gift to low income communities. It is a for profit venture. It is good they are providing jobs to the community, like any business, but how is it different from jobs provided by McDs.
-That because the intentions of the chef’s are good, the food shouldn’t be reviewed critically. Really, poor people should just be kept in the dark and be happy for mediocre food because, well its better than nothing.
This venture has been getting massive amounts of uncritical press since it was just a thought in Choi and Patterson’s head, literally for years before they actually opened. All the defenders complaining about one bad review seem to reflect really thin skin.




From a modern nutritional perspective, the beef is the healthiest part of a hamburger.

To make it healthier, you’d replace the bun with whole grains and beans and add a lot of vegetables, ending up with something like an Eatsa bowl.


LAT responds too.

In a text to me Choi wrote: “I ain’t mad at Pete. But, what he didn’t take into context is that none of our team ever had a job before. They didn’t deserve these harsh words as they’re trying their best every day. It’s like yelling ‘booooo’ at an elementary school musical.”


I could spend some considerable time copy/pasting bits and pieces that made my eyes roll, but this…

“I’d like to give Wells the opportunity to meet several Grape Street Crips in the Juniper Street parking lot at Jordan Downs.”

And the Times allowed this to go to print. Wow.


If that’s true, it might be the only one of Choi’s and Patterson’s stated goals that they’ve met. However, they might do better by those workers by competing with nearby restaurants on flavor. If you look at the comments on Wells’s review, most if not all the people who have actually eaten there agreed that the food was not good.

Krikorian mentions that Jonathan Gold put the Watts Locol on his 2016 101 list, but Gold did not say the whether the food was good, nor (unlike Wells) did he recommend any dishes.


They seem to recognize this point, as noted in the LA Mag piece. LocaL is currently sitting at 4* on Yelp, so the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.


Their LAX stand was disgusting, no QC whatsoever, don’t miss it.

I get what Choi is trying to do… However should one celebrate an establishment with untrained/unprepared staff not ready for prime time, just because it’s run by celebrity chefs on a ‘mission’? Others would call this poor management. You sure aren’t getting a discount for subpar food. I wonder if there would be as many defenders if Choi and Patterson were not associated with Locol?


The Oakland branch has 3.5 stars on Yelp, but I think distribution is atypical, with a lot more than the usual number of one- and two-star reviews and the average pulled up by five-star reviews. Too bad Yelp dropped their little distribution chart.

Also, many of the four-star reviews are more negative than you’d expect from the rating.


"But, what he didn’t take into context is that none of our team ever had a job before. They didn’t deserve these harsh words as they’re trying their best every day. It’s like yelling ‘booooo’ at an elementary school musical.”

To me this makes it worse - blaming the employees that you are supposed to have trained for the poor review. You don’t see Thomas Keller blaming his staff for Wells’ Per Se review.


The backlash gets a backlash!

I’ll say that I don’t really get the idea of reviewing a place like LocoL or Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar or a number of other restaurants that Wells has seen fit to critique. It’s certainly his right and once he’s embarked on that assignment he needs to stay true to his voice. And make no mistake, I believe that LocoL is fair game.

But I also can’t help but contrast Wells to the critic of record in LA, Jonathan Gold. Wells writes about the food in a very traditional sense. He’s critical, but fair. His writing focuses on the dishes and service and it seems as though he tries to keep subjectivity at bay in what is primarily a subjective endeavor. However, it’s worth noting that he gains the most recognition when he has negative things to say about restaurants that are well-known.

Jonathan Gold writes about food and dining as an experience. He tries to give the reader a sense of the emotions and feelings they might experience when they become part of the restaurant for those few minutes while they dine. His reviews often leave readers seeking more details about the dishes and how those dishes taste. This is polarizing because readers often just want a critical review of the food and service and Gold often omits that information. Jonathan Gold gains the most recognition when he highlights and champions restaurants and chefs to help elevate how the city views these people and their business.

I’ll say that I’m very glad this city has Jonathan Gold. When I want the details of the dishes and service at a restaurant, a paid critic from a periodical can’t hold a candle to this community. So I really don’t need a critic who operates like Wells (or S.I. Virbila for that matter).

I guess what rubs me the wrong way is I don’t understand why this review was necessary. The NYT is the paper of record for the country, but it still should have a very good reason for sending its restaurant critic across the country to review a restaurant. I’m not sure that applies here.

Again, LocoL is certainly fair game. I think the backlash argumentation has often been illogical and poorly made. Perhaps this post is, too. Nearly everyone’s backlash to the backlash posts make so much sense. Ultimately, Wells’ choice needs to be protected.

But I keep coming back to this: was this a necessary review? Does the NYT readership need a critical review of the food served here? Does this serve a purpose that a Yelp review or a FTC’er starting a new thread hasn’t already accomplished? I don’t see it.


they thought it would sell newspapers and advertising. simple as.


page views and advertiser dollars.