There's one dish unique to Hawaii that has most people salivating with every bite. A fried egg stacked on a thick hamburger patty with white rice and smothered in gravy. Nearly every restaurant in the islands has their version of the loco moco. Some might even call it Hawaii's original fast food. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, variations abound. Some chefs use Spam, others Portuguese sausage or caramelized onions and kim chee. But there's one thing about loco moco everyone agrees on, the sight of it will make you drool. We asked some of Hawaii's amazing chefs to pick their favorites.
Creativity, passion and good food remain at the heart of what famed chef Alan Wong creates every day. He says Zippy’s is often a go-to for breakfast for him. “For so many local people, it’s a tradition to go to Zippy’s straight from the airport as soon as you come home from a trip away.” But it’s loco moco from Café 100 in Hilo that tempts Chef Wong’s taste buds. “Whenever we take the team to Hilo, we have to go to Café 100 for a loco moco. It’s the home of the original, and it’s another tradition for us.”
Chef Ronnie Nasuti from Tiki’s Grill & Bar loves this monster meal. His favorites include Lee Ann Wong’s from Koko Head Cafe, Likelike Drive-in, Kakaako Kitchen and Rainbow Drive-in, which he describes as having a “good vibe, good price and good memories.” But he is biased about the loco moco on Tiki’s menu. It’s made with local grass-fed beef, or you can substitute Maui Nui Venison.
Executive Chef Colin Hazama of The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort has his own version of the loco moco served on the Surf Lanai lunch menu at the hotel called the Coconut Grove Loco Moco. It’s made with red wine braised Short ribs, crispy fried egg, fried rice, pickled chilis and red onion marmalade. But’s he’s got other favorites too; Ethel’s Grill, Rainbow Drive-In, Highway Inn and Island Style BBQ in Kalihi.
Founding Hawaii regional cuisine chef Peter Merriman has tasted many Loco Moco dishes. After so many taste tests, he says he’s created the best version of the dish at Merriman’s Kapalua. “Made with prime beef, farm fresh eggs and Hamakua mushrooms – how could you go wrong?” Merriman said.
Executive Chef Jeff Szombaty of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa has his favorites around Oahu.
1. Liliha Bakery: “because you can get their classic butter rolls too.”
2. Café Moena: “I just moved to Hawaii Kai so it’s in the neighborhood, and they use short ribs.”
3. Fatboys: “best loco moco for $8.99 and add some of their garlic chicken too!”
Ask any local, there's only one way to eat loco moco! Pop the egg yolk and let it spill all over the dish. Otherwise, it's not a real loco moco. Now, go out an enjoy!