As I turned the corner at Grand Avenue and Broadway, I realize I am really hungry. I am just feet away from LocoL in Oakland’s Uptown district, the second eatery opened by chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi creating what they say is "revolutionary fast food." Its opening last May followed the successful launch of the first location in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles four months earlier in January. I am told that I will speak with Cory Woods, one of the managers about the LocoL story and what it’s arrival means to the community and of course, sample the goods.
“Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi are trying to do something that no one has ever done before which is bring affordable, healthy food to people at reasonable prices,” Woods says after we sit down to talk. “What really made me interested was the opportunities that they give individuals who might not otherwise have these opportunities. They have given us the opportunity to be successful and excel in life.”
Woods, now the kitchen manager, quickly worked his way up after joining the restaurant as a dishwasher. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, Woods was introduced to LocoL and its mission of empowering individuals and communities that are underserved with opportunities to help them thrive. Woods shares that he was incarcerated and had been out for less than a year. Originally from St. Louis, MO, he was in the military when he relocated to the Bay Area in 1989. He was discharged in 1992 and shortly after starting college, he says, “I did some things I shouldn’t have done and spent the last 22 years in prison.” While this would have closed the door for most employers, LocoL opened theirs wide to Woods and others with similar backgrounds making it part of its mission to give second chances.
LocoL is a restaurant for the people. “When customers walk through that door, we want to greet them and let them know that they are welcomed here,” says Woods stressing hospitality. As you step inside on any given day, your visit will start with the sounds of hip hop or R & B (the genre changes on any given the day and with the customer vibe) and an enthusiastic welcome from one of the greeters. The enlarged photo on the wall features two members of the West Oakland Scraper Bike Team shot by LocoL’s photography while in the community. The one thing that causes mixed reviews is the seating arrangements. LocoL has a style of its own so don’t expect your standard table and chairs. Instead, tables formed out of boxed-shaped furniture that also acts as chairs occupy the floor for those who want to stick around and eat. Some like it and some don’t.
The food... yummy. Simple, affordable and delicious. Nothing is over $8 and sides under the “Fun Zone” will only set you back $2. “I have tried everything on the menu. Chef Choi and Patterson are so generous, they allow us to use $10 for lunch every day and I have taken that liberty to try everything. And there are certain foods as a kid I didn’t eat but those foods we sell here and I love them. I never ate vegetables in my life. These vegetables here are seasoned and made just right. You will fall in love with them.”
One of the vegetables Woods is talking about is LocoL’s “Messy Greens,” which is a Patterson and Choi’s secret recipe. It is a top seller, and personally speaking I can see why. Woods also calls out the Foldies (Machaca or bean and cheese) as well as the chicken nugs as top sellers but overall says you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. “We are trying to get away from the norm, at the same time we are in the restaurant industry to accommodate and feed the customer while trying something different.”
Within the Bay Area, LocoL is planning to expand its locations and mission to West Oakland as well as San Francisco’s Tenderloin district before heading out of the state. With a model set up to work with and for the people, the vision is catching on fast. Woods is one of many who are grateful for LocoL’s passion to step up and provide opportunities in communities where many would not and because of that, he is committed to making sure the LocoL mission is not only heard but seen by each person stepping through the door.
LocoL is located at 2214 Broadway Street and is open Monday – Friday from 11 am – 8 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 6 pm. For more, visit
Photo credit: V. Sheree Publishing