50 Gourmet Comfort Food Dishes in Hawai‘i That’ll Warm Your Heart and Soul
Comfort food might be indulgent, but it connects us to family, traditions, cultures. Here are some of our favorites, elevated, but still reminding us of when life was simpler and calories didn’t exist.
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Going Loco for Moco
Loco Moco a go-go
The loco moco is that most down-home of local inventions. What could be more basic, and more satisfying, than white rice, a hamburger patty and a sunny-side-up egg, doused with brown gravy? Still, Hawai‘i chefs can’t resist improving on a good thing; check out these inventive renditions of the plate-lunch fave.
Birth of a loco moco
Hilo is the hometown of the original loco moco, with the dish dating back to 1949 at Lincoln Grill, where, as the story goes, a group of hungry teen athletes came in looking for something cheap and filling to eat. (The owner threw together a beef patty with white rice and brown gravy. The egg came later.) Café 100 has continued Hilo’s famed reputation, serving more than 30 varieties of this simple dish with ingredients such as ‘ahi, chili, stew and Spam.
Koko Head Café
PHOTOS: STEVE CZERNIAK
Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Moco is all about the little details: the delicious inch-thick local Maui Cattle Co. beef patty, the crispy garlic rice along the bottom of the skillet, the amazing flash-fried tempura kim chee that tops it all off.
Loco foie gras moco
It’s hard to imagine steak better than this: a three-ounce Hawai‘i Ranchers filet mignon, topped with two ounces of foie gras, on Hāmākua mushroom risotto with a quail egg and sauce bordelaise. Umami extravaganza!
Part of the four-course tasting menu, $70.
The Smokin’ Moco swaps hamburger for chopped lychee-wood-smoked meat. Then there’s gravy and two eggs fresh from Wahiawā. Portions are generous and, hey, pay a little more to get the fried rice and be even happier.
$13.95 (mini $9.25), myhighwayinn.com.
Loco Moco Royale v2.2
Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shop
Scratch keeps experimenting with loco moco. Its latest version, Loco Moco Royale v2.2, is a glorious combination: braised beef short rib, French onion soup gravy, a delightfully sunny egg, garlic rice, and, the crowning sensation, pan-seared foie gras.
Local Lobster Moco
40 Carrots, Bloomingdale’s
If Keāhole lobster tail, sautéed foie gras, mushrooms from Hāmākua and toasted bonito rice topped with a perfectly cooked local egg wasn’t enough, chef Jon Matsubara cooks Italian black truffles in a Madeira sauce, adding richness to an already-decadent dish.
The Loco Moco
The Pineapple Room
Start basic—hamburger, rice, gravy and eggs—then make each each element the best quality: kiawe-grilled Makaweli Kaua‘i beef, two Petersons’ Upland Farm eggs, veal jus and a bed of perfectly seasoned fried rice.
$23 lunch, $27 dinner, alanwongs.com.
short rib loco moco
This popular Hawai‘i Kai brunch spot went upscale with super-tender braised short ribs and a rich, house-made demi-glace. Bonus points if you order it with the café’s uber-
flavorful fried rice.
$15.50, $17.50 with fried rice, moenacafe.com.
Gourmet loco moco
This one surprises first by color (the generous helping of Forbidden Rice is black-purple), then by subtlety (the Hāmākua mushroom gravy is a deep, dark reduction) and finally by the quality and intensity of the ground, Island-raised steak.
This is one of chef Masaharu Morimoto’s favorite dishes. No wonder, given its seared Australian-raised wagyu beef topped with a thick, Japanese-style demi-glace, a sunny-side-up egg and red fukujinzuke (pickled ginger).
Loco moco meatloaf
This version, which swaps out hamburger for meatloaf, should really be called a “local” moco: The meatloaf is made with local, grass-fed beef and it’s topped with a perfectly cooked local egg and Ho Farms vegetable fried rice.