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Roy Choi Closes LocoL Restaurant In Watts

Roy Choi (left) and KPCC's Alex Cohen sample the food at recently opened LocoL, Choi's new fast food restaurant opening in Watts, on January 18, 2016. (Leo Duran/KPCC)
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The owners of LocoL announced via social media on Wednesday that they're closing the healthyish fast food restaurant opened in Watts in 2016 by chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson. Their goal went beyond serving tasty and affordable food. They wanted to created a business model that provided jobs and offered a dose of economic development in South L.A.

"It's a community that hasn't had many restaurants build here and many new businesses come in decades," Choi told Take Two in January 2016. "So on top of the normal restaurant stuff, there's also that emotional burden of, like, I don't wanna f*** it up."

LocoL had an auspicious opening -- on Martin Luther King's Birthday. Choi and Patterson also opened a LocoL in Oakland and an outpost inside a Whole Foods in San Jose. While plenty of people supported the concept, the food -- stuffed tacos, shredded turkey sandwiches, chili bowls, aguas frescas, sundaes -- didn't win over many diners.

"It's hard to cook something really, really delicious with a lot of labor, fresh ingredients and vegetables from farmers markets, making sound decisions and ethical decisions on things, and serving it for $2," Choi told Take Two back in 2016.

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Workers in the kitchen prepare for opening day at LocoL, Roy Choi's new fast food restaurant opening in Watts, on January 18, 2016. (Leo Duran/KPCC)

New York Times reviewer Pete Wells gave LocoL zero stars, asking "Why offer less satisfying versions of what's already there, when they could be selling great versions of something new?"

Choi responded in an Instagram post, writing:

"We all know the food is not as bad as he states. Is it perfect? NO. But it's not as bad as he writes. And all minorities aren't criminals either. And all hoods aren't filled with dangerous people either. But the pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to. He didn't need to go there but he did."

Despite that spirited defense -- and Jonathan Gold naming it the L.A. Times Restaurant of the Year in 2017 -- LocoL struggled to find its niche, both among locals and foodies.
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LocoL isn't completely shuttering. Choi says that starting today, it will move to full-time catering. The Watts restaurant will remain open but only as a catering space while the business owners try "to find the most profitable path for growth for our communities and the company." Choi also thanked fans for their support.

LocoL is also closing its San Jose location and had already closed its West Oakland location back in June.

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