I have never been to a restaurant opening quite like LocoL, where the people in line weren’t just excited for the food, but also for what that food means to the community. Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson finally opened the doors to their fast food status quo disruptor in Watts, with the goal to provide healthy, affordable options that still satisfy late night munchies.
Daphne, a self described foodie from nearby Compton had known about chef Roy since the Kogi Truck, and followed him on social media and was so proud to have a healthy choice. “I’m going to taste it first and we’ll see,” she told her family and friends. “They got these things that are like a taco—foldies—yeah, I heard that those were good.”
I was debating whether it would be machaca or carnitas—the carnitas were a hot topic while waiting the line that snaked around the corner—when Daphne mentioned the BBQ turkey foldie. Soul food and Mexican cuisine have a long history of cultural collisions in Watts from “black tacos” (essentially the Americanized crunchy taco) served in soul food joints like The Family Mexican and Soul Food Restaurant and popular among the current trend of young taco vendors like All Flavor No Grease. That tradition is not lost on Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson.
Foldies are inspired by a style of fast food taco, but they remind me of tacos de canasta that are pan-fried instead of steamed. Or Belizean panades, where in both cases the filling soaks through, flavoring the tortilla. A thin spread of tasty refried beans supports a lightly sweet filling of barbecued turkey in a folded corn tortilla. By the time I arrived yesterday, foldies were already a local hit. Then again, so is the entire menu of foldies, healthy burgers, noodles, and soul food staples that reflect the distinct flavors of the neighborhood, plus some other items that show respect for a community dying for some change in the scenery.
I’ve been enjoying tacos from chef Roy Choi since 2008, but these foldies might just be my favorite yet. And they couldn’t be more local.