Loco Moco is a popular Hawaii dish. It's made of rice, burger patty, gravy, and fried eggs. More about origins, and where to eat Loco Moco in Hawaii!
Loco Moco at Cafe 100 (Big Island)
We love Loco Moco in Hawaii.
What is Loco Moco?
Loco Moco is a famous Hawaii dish (note that it's a local Hawaii dish, but not a Hawaiian dish...two very different things).
Loco Moco comes on a plate. It features rice topped with a hamburger patty, lots of gravy, and a fried sunny-side up egg. It makes for a super hearty meal ^_^
Eat it with a fork, spoon or chopsticks...I've seen it all ways.
Loco Moco at Four Seasons Hualalai (Big Island)
Where did Loco Moco come from?
Loco Moco was invented in 1949 in Hilo (on the Big Island). Some say it was invented at Lincoln Grill. Others say it was at Cafe 100. We'll never know the actual truth! But both restaurants are located in Hilo, so we can be sure it was invented in Hilo.
A group of teenagers came to the restaurant and wanted to eat something that was different from their usual order. The owner brainstormed this fun, filling creation that layered everything the teenagers loved.
They joked that the first boy who tried it was completely, "loco" (Hawaiian pidgen slang for "bonkers/nuts"). The word "moco" rhymed nicely. There you have it...Loco Moco!
Loco Moco at Four Seasons Hualalai (Big Island)
Variations on Loco Moco
Loco Moco is comfort food, it's diner food, it's food you make at home. It is not fancy food. But! Like all popular Hawaii foods (think malasadas and saimin), many restaurants make fancy/premium versions. I've seen Loco Moco topped with truffled gravy and truffles shaved all over. Loco Moco made with waygu beef. And others with super fancy rice and rare mushrooms. There are a million ways to gussy up the dish.
If you haven't tired Loco Moco before, make sure you try a simple version first. And then go experiment with all the fancy ones!
Loco Moco at Moke's Bread & Breakfast (Oahu)
Four Main Loco Moco Parts
Because there are only four parts to a Loco Moco, each part should be thoughtfully considered:
The rice should be Japanese short grain rice.
Sidenote: I was born/raised in Hawaii and moved to NYC for college/work. In college I learned that on the mainland, when people say "rice," they're referring to rice that doesn't stick together (eg. Uncle Ben's). What we call "rice" in Hawaii is called "sticky rice" on the mainland. I witnessed this firsthand at our college dining hall! Can you believe the shock haha. I grew up thinking that ALL rice sticks (and it's still weird to me that non-sticky rice is a thing).
Keep it simple. Good ground beef, don't mess around with it too much. I like beef, panko/breadcrumbs, onions, salt and pepper, and an egg (to bind everything together).
The gravy part is very personal. Some people like it thick and rich, other people like it thinner. I like something just in the middle, a beef gravy (with a bit shoyu/soy sauce...because that's how you do it local-style). If I'm feeling fancy, I add sliced mushrooms into the gravy.
MUST be fried, sunny-side up. One egg for each hamburger patty.
Loco Moco at Diamond Head Grill (Oahu)
What About a Loco Moco Recipe?
You don't need a recipe! No stress. Just go home, cook rice. Fry a burger patty. Make gravy. Layer it all together. Also: don't feel bad about buying the components too...no one is judging if you prefer to buy pre-made patties or gravy. Just make sure you get the nice stuff ^_^
Where to get Loco Moco!
You can find Loco Moco everywhere in Hawaii, no joke. Every diner, every plate lunch place, everyone has loco moco. And everyone's has their favorites. Here's a few greats spots to get you started:
- Cafe 100 (Big Island) - Claim to fame as the one of the original inventors of Loco Moco! In addition to original loco moco, they have a bunch of variations on the dish like loco moco with Portuguese sausage (first photo at top of the post), ahi or mahi, and even chili loco moco.
- Zippy's (Oahu, Maui, Big Island) - Always can count on Zippy's to have solid versions of all our local favorites. This is a one stop shop if you want to try a bunch of other local dishes like saimin and teri burgers. Full post on Zippy's here.
- Rainbow Drive-In (Oahu) - This is where you go for loco moco classic! Open since 1961 and still family run. A must-stop on Oahu.
- Moke's Bread & Breakfast (Oahu) - One of my favorite breakfast spots in Honolulu. I go with a friend and split: lilikoi pancakes, corned beef hash, and a loco moco. You can also sub regular rice with fried rice! Two locations (Kailua and new one in Kaimuki).
- Da Kitchen (Maui) - They have five kinds of loco moco! I am partial to katsu loco which includes a layer of chicken katsu and lots of sautéed onions in addition to the standard loco moco parts. You'll need a nap after this.