Chefs Roy Choi (POT, Los Angeles) and Daniel Patterson (Coi, San Francisco) are knee-deep in the menu testing phase for their upcoming fast food chain Loco'l. The restaurant — which already has locations planned for San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit — aims to go neck-and-neck with McDonald's by offering healthy cheffed-up meals at a similar price point. Yahoo's Andrew Romano got a chance to check out some of the early versions of items Choi and Patterson plan to offer including burgers and a breakfast sandwich.
Whole grains play a big part in Loco'l's menu.
First up is a veggie burger that is "much denser and weightier than your typical Whopper." The patty is made mostly from grains — a mix of those that are raw, sprouted, and cooked — and is topped with jack cheese. The burger also features grilled-scallion-and-lime relish as well as a mix of tomato, onion, garlic, and gochujang that Choi and Patterson have dubbed as "Awesome Sauce." The patty and sauces are served on a custom-made bun from SF-based Tartine Bakery that is party made with rice flour. The bun is griddled and pressed until the "crust gets crispy and the cheese starts to ooze," and it results in "one of the best burgers" Romano has ever tasted.
Loco'l's standard beef burger will also be made with grains. The chef reveals that Loco'l will cut the burger with cooked grains so that "it's not all meat." This will help keep costs down and create a healthier patty that still tastes like a burger. Even the chicken nuggets will be made with grains. The chain's take on the McNugget will be a 50-50 mix of fermented bulgur and chicken. Choi and Patterson's cost-cutting approach is nothing new: People have been stretching meat with grains to make it last longer since the Neolithic Revolution.
"It's like a new form of pizza." — Roy Choi
The building blocks of the menu also appear to be influenced by the grain and vegetable-heavy macrobiotic diet: Patterson and Choi are testing a tofu-and-veggie rice bowl that is "surprisingly bright and hearty." It features tofu, seasonal vegetables, gochujang, lime, red miso, cucumber, and cilantro in an "economical, water-based broth." The team is experimenting with two kinds of oblong flatbread as well. They come smeared with vegetable purees, a drizzle of olive oil, and some togarashi. Choi notes, "Imagine you walk inside, you get this... one dollar, two dollars, boom. It's like a new form of pizza."
As for breakfast there will be an egg-in-the-hole inspired sandwich. A Tartine bun is sliced in half and topped with a a layer of jack cheese. An egg is "poured into a crater scooped from the top," and the sandwich is cooked until the egg is set. The team plans to make dessert from the bread discarded from the sandwiches. The leftover bits are whisked with eggs, cream, and sugar, and pan-fried into a mini French toast bite-like concoction.