Loco Moco: Hawaii’s Ultimate Comfort Food

Albert Poon
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Loco Moco from Mahalo in San Francisco.

Loco mocos are the food of the people. Important things to know: They are most likely consumed from a three-section disposable plate, though artisanal, upscale versions have been known to exist. Loco mocos are designed to satisfy in a uniquely Hawaiian style—meaning filling satisfaction first. Health...well, you can surf the calories off afterwards.

Loco moco from Namu Stonepot in San Francisco.

Every Loco Moco starts with a generous foundation of rice. Don’t worry about carbs. If you’re going to truly enjoy a loco moco, you’re gonna get scoops—multiple—of rice.

Second, pick your meat. The classic is a hamburger patty, but loco mocos have been known to feature Spam, prime rib or Hawaiian Teri chicken or beef.

Next, generous pours of brown gravy—enough gravy so the diner never has to worry about a bite of meat or rice that isn’t fully wet.

Finally, it’s topped with fried eggs. Traditionally it’s eggs sunny side up or over easy. You will need a runny yolk to get the loco moco to work properly.

Also, one of those smaller plate sections will need something. That something is most often macaroni salad. (You may be starting to notice that loco moco won’t ever be confused with healthy food.) Sometimes it’s potato salad. On rare occasions, someone will throw a tiny mixed salad in that section. Rarely.

Ohana Hawaiian BBQ's loco moco in East Bay.

Now you’re ready. Puncture the egg yolk, push your fork through the egg, gravy, meat, and rice, letting the gravy and yolk soak it all. Eat that all at once. There. Welcome to true Hawaiian satisfaction.

Loco Mocos, once exclusive to the local diners, drive-ins and lunch trucks of Hawaii, have made the leap to the mainland. (If you’re reading this in Hawaii, howzit!) Loco mocos and Hawaiian plate lunches are available up and down the West Coast and are well represented in the Bay.

Loco moco from Mahalo Hawaii BBQ & Chinese Food in the South Bay.

In San Francisco, check out:

  • Namu Stonepot (Panhandle, SF, shown above):This is one of those artisanal, upscale versions. But loco moco don’t mind. It’s good high-brow or low-brow!
  • Sally’s Restaurant (Potrero Hill, SF): A longtime breakfast and brunch restaurant at the northern foot of Potrero that serves Loco Moco along with classic breakfast plates.
  • Mahalo (Inner Sunset, SF): The Inner Sunset’s Hawaiian spot. You can order Hawaiian-style breakfasts as well as cans of POG (that’d be passionfruit, orange, and guava juice). 
  • Aloha BBQ (Excelsior, SF): Based in the Outer Mission, this spot features a full selection of Hawaiian canned drinks.
  • Westlake Coffee Shop (Daly City): Here, loco moco is blended into a menu of more traditional breakfast options.
  • Hawaiian Drive Inn (Daly City): A Hawaiian plate lunch chain founded in San Francisco in 1997.

In East Bay, check out:

  • Ohana Hawaiian BBQ (Alameda): For a full selection of plate lunch options and Hawaiian Sun cans.
  • iLava Hawaiian BBQ (Fremont, Oakland): A Fruitvale plate lunch favorite that also operates a food trailer for food truck festivals and mobile pop-ups.
  • Honolulu BBQ (Alameda): Based in Alameda, This spot offers not just loco moco, but saimin too!

In South Bay, check out:

  • Mahalo Hawaii BBQ & Chinese Food (Blossom Valley, San Jose): This South San Jose restaurant primarily has  Hawaiian-style plate lunches and saimin.
  • L&L Hawaiian BBQ (Santa Clara): A popular chain with franchised locations in the islands and now the mainland.

In the Peninsula, check out:

  • L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Central Business District, San Mateo): The San Mateo location of this Hawaiian chain has Loco Mocos in mini and regular sizes.
  • Hawi Hawaiian BBQ (South San Francisco): This downtown South City restaurant lets you customize your egg. The classic is over easy, but you should have it the way you want.
  • Hula Hoops (South San Francisco): This full service Hawaiian restaurant and bar features a full range of mocos including the traditional hamburger patties, Kalua Pork, Fried Chicken, Spam and Steak. You can even have patties, kalua, and fried chicken in a combo if you can't decide!
  • Westlake Coffee Shop (Daly City): This Daly City breakfast and brunch spot specializes in American style breakfast dishes. Of course, the Loco Moco should be considered the king of American breakfast dishes, so it fits.
  • Phil’s Kitchen (Downtown Menlo Park): This Chinese/Hawaiian cafeteria offers a Loco Moco Special Combo which lets you choose the traditional rice and mac salad side or substitute both for super green veggies. But, if you're gonna have a loco moco...

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