The biggest restaurant story of the year has arguably been New York Times critic Pete Wells’ withering review of Locol, a fast-food concept that brings high-quality, affordable food into urban neighborhoods. Wells awarded zero stars to the restaurant, calling the chili bland, the burger dry, and the chicken, well, “the best thing to do with it is pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Food blogs erupted in protest. Most did not take issue with the content of the review. Some called it “mostly right.” But critics argued the review was in poor taste, given the restaurant’s admirable mission to change lives in some of the most neglected food deserts in America.
Locol has two locations, in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and a gentrifying part of Oakland. The company makes hires from disadvantaged areas, regardless of an applicant’s work experience, criminal record, or even literacy, and pays above most fast-food wages.