New fast food chain with a healthy heart

In San Francisco and Los Angeles there will soon be a new kind of fast food restaurant trying to do things differently. Much like the upstart chains of Chipotle and Potbelly that online culinary arts program students already know, ​Loco’l will offer healthier and more upscale products than fast food giants McDonald’s and Burger King. The difference is, the clientelle will not be the typical well-off youth who want ethical food to be fast, but those who live in food deserts. According to Feeding America, one in six U.S. citizens are faced with food insecurity. Chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi are hoping their fast food chain can help change these statistics.

Good heart, good food
Patterson and Choi’s ​Loco’l will be established as a for-profit business that competes directly with fast food chains that offer unhealthy options. In the planned locations for Loco’l, current restaurants offer only unhealthy options. No other choices are available for impoverished youth at prices they can afford. That is why Loco’l will charge only $2 to $6 for each meal.

The first location will open in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in the spring of 2015. A fast food chain of such proportions, being run by such successful chefs as Choi and Patterson, will be a first of its kind. Choi developed Kogi BBQ and many other restaurants near LA, while Patterson runs Coi in San Francisco and other well-regarded restaurants. These chefs have made names for themselves in the world of elite cooking, but food politics has always been a part of their lives.

Choi recently opened 3 Worlds Cafe, which serves fresh fruit and smoothies in an area originally dominated by liquor stores. Patterson is involved with Cooking Project, a nonprofit that works with Larkin Street Youth Clinic to teach at-risk youth to cook. Both chefs understand that their roles with Loco’l are to offer the kids the opportunity to taste good food.

“They need to crave something before they want to cook it,” Patterson told the San Francisco Gate. “What does every kid eat? Fast food.”

At Patterson and Choi’s new venture, local residents will get to try food that is made with well-sourced ingredients and even seasonal ingredients. Menu items will include salads, rice bowls, vegetable bowls, and other ethnic dishes like tacos and falafel. One of the more intriguing offerings at the restaurant will be a mash burger, made of meat, tofu and grains, and topped with a 24-hour fermented bun.

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