The Los Angeles Times recently announced Locol to be their restaurant of the year. Roy Choi of Kogi Taco truck fame and Daniel Patterson created Locol with the intent of introducing healthier fast food, with fresh ingredients and less fat and sugar, in low-income communities, where heathy choices are few and far between.
Last weekend, Locol was at the Arroyo Seco Weekend in Pasadena, along with many upscale food vendors. While some stalls had $18 lobster rolls, Locol’s mid-priced food, with price points from $4 to $8, seemed downright cheap in comparison.
Instead of the burgers and foldies available at their brick-and-mortar stores, Locol had a limited menu of chili, red beans and rice, greens and slaw.
The chili was available with beef or without. The vegetarian chili – chock full of veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and tomatoes – had surprisingly few beans and came on top a bed of rice, which was a surprise. The mild chili was super tasty, and I did not miss the absence of meat. As an additional bonus, probably due to the lack of beans, my body wasn’t overtaken by gas either.
Less successful was the creamy mustard slaw. The slaw could be ordered with either tofu or chicken, but since slaws normally don’t have a protein, I didn’t really see the point as they did not add much to the flavor (or maybe that’s because we ordered it with tofu). I consider slaws to be one of the veggie sides to a protein and would have rather had the slaw be all vegetables. As far as slaws go, this was fairly typical, with the slightest touch of heat from the jalapeños.
More interesting were the Messy Greens – a vegan take on collard greens. The traditional collard greens uses some sort of pork product like ham hocks to help impart flavor to the bitter greens. Locol’s version managed to avoid any use of meat but managed to have the flavor of collard greens cooked with pork.
Was Locol the best food I ate at the Arroyo Seco Weekend? No, that honor goes to the porchetta sandwich from Union, but at $13, it was at a much higher price point. I still am curious to try some of their other menu items and would happily partake if I find myself in the neighborhood or by one of their trucks. I like Locol’s mission – their fast food revolution to bring healthier food to underserved communities – and hope that they succeed.