When Roy Choi first opened his “revolutionary fast-food” restaurant, LocoL, earlier this year in Watts, California, the entire point was to serve children of color from low-income neighborhoods. “A big part of fast-food in America is trapping the young kid,” he told First We Feast in January. “[At LocoL,] everything is a playground, the whole place flows in a rhythm.”
Now, as Choi recently opened a second location of the restaurant in Oakland, LocoL’s staff—comprised primarily of young men and women from the surrounding neighborhoods—is entangled in a racially-charged controversy with a Bay Area newspaper.
In a review for the SF Weekly on Wednesday, arts editor Peter Lawrence Kane complained about LocoL being too loud, referencing the '90s R&B being played at a “restaurant staffed by teenagers of color.” Choi took a screenshot of the paragraph and posted it to Twitter early Thursday morning.
Choi later posted a photo of the restaurant's staff, and blasted the Bay Area for being the supposed “apex of liberal thought and equality.”
“I was mad all night then I woke to my family and found peace,” he wrote.
The controversial line has since been deleted, and Kane issued an editor’s note at the top of the piece, apologizing for the comment:
After running it by some friends whose judgment I trust, this story has been updated to delete a self-deprecating passage that struck some readers as being in poor taste. Errors of clarity fall on the writer, so I apologize: First for being glib and ambiguous, second for the unfortunate timing of people reading a food review that included a lame joke about me being a white goofball on a day when everyone is also reading about Alton Sterling's murder, and third for even the insinuation that something was awry with respect to my interaction with LocoL's staff. I had mixed feelings about the restaurant overall, but the staff rocks.
Back in January, Choi noted how much working at his restaurant in Watts seemed to be helping local youth.
“They’re hungry, man,” he said. “From day one the kitchen is spotless, the food is coming out hot and good, and the work stations are organized. Look how much energy they got, and they’ve been working since 6 a.m."
They’re bobbing their heads," he added "They love it.”
First We Feast has reached out to both Choi and Kane, and will update this post if and when a response is received.