Loco Moco: Hawaii’s Ultimate Comfort Food

Albert Poon
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.

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.

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.

In San Francisco, check out:

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  • Namu Stonepot: (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: A longtime breakfast and brunch restaurant at the northern foot of Potrero that serves Loco Moco along with classic breakfast plates.
  • Mahalo: 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: Based in the Outer Mission, this spot features a full selection of Hawaiian canned drinks.
  • Westlake Coffee Shop: Here, loco moco is blended into a menu of more traditional breakfast options.
  • Hawaiian Drive Inn: A Hawaiian plate lunch chain founded in San Francisco in 1997.
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