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36 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.


23. Koko Moco

Koko Head Café

Koko moco from Koko Head Cafē.


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.

$15, kokoheadcafe.com.


24. Smokin’ moco

Highway Inn

Smokin’ moco from Highway Inn.


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.

$14.95 (mini $9.95), myhighwayinn.com.


25. Pork Adobo Loco Moco

Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shop


Scratch keeps experimenting with loco moco. Its latest version, pork adobo loco moco, is a glorious combination: pork adobo, crispy garlic chips, a delightfully sunny egg, garlic rice and sweet onion-tomato relish.

$15, scratch-hawaii.com


26. Local Lobster Moco

40 Carrots, Bloomingdale’s

Local lobster moco from 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.



27. short rib loco moco

Moena Café 


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.

$17.25, $19.25 with fried rice, moenacafe.com


28. Gourmet loco moco

EAT Honolulu


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. EAT Honolulu caters so you will need to order six minimum.

$16.50, eathonolulu.com.


29. Loco moco meatloaf

MW Restaurant


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.

$18, mwrestaurant.com.


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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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