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  • Kevin Hara

Local Loco

I stood at the Omelet Station at the Hawaiian resort. There were bowls of mushrooms, salmon, spinach, chives and on and on. And the cheese. You had your choice of cheddar, swiss, or mozzarella. I studiously looked these all over. “What would you like?” asked the stocky young Polynesian chef. I meekly replied, “Can you do a fried egg, over easy, for my meat patty?” “All right!” he said, “You know how for eat local.” Loco Moco.

Loco Moco is a Hawaiʻi staple. It is a mound of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, then a fried egg, and smothered with gravy. I still remember my first Loco Moco. It was at the county fair in Hilo. I was sitting on the ground waiting for the big show when my mom brought it over for dinner. While growing up, I recall going to Mayʻs where you could order your Loco Moco by the number of patties and the number of eggs.

Food is an integral part of a culture’s identity. Food creates connections throughout a community. If you ask anyone in Hawaiʻi, “What food item is most local in Hawaiʻi?” Loco moco would appear on everyoneʻs short list.


The Loco Moco was first concocted in Hilo at Lincoln Grill by Richard and Nancy Inouye in 1949. Lincoln Grill stood across from Lincoln Park and the Central Fire Station. It was an affordable means to feed a group of teenagers called the Lincoln Wreckers. The hamburger, gravy and rice sold for 30 cents. If you wanted the egg, it was 15 cents more.

Pidgin in Hawaii evolved as a means of communication amongst the diverse cultures that immigrated to work on the sugar plantations. University of Hawaii – Hilo professor James Kellyʻs thesis is that the same is true for the Loco Moco. Its evolution is the result of the blending of cultures in Hawaiʻi. The rice is Asian and the hamburger patty is Western. There is a mixture of presentation; in an Asian bowl or on a western plate. There a mixture of the items; combined all together, versus the Japanese style of separate dishes. My son thinks its funny that his Mom prefers to mix all of the items on her plate together while his Dad prefers to have the items all separated and untouched from each other. There is also the option of consumption time; fast food or slow dining.

My son is a Loco Moco connoisseur. He has his personal list of the top five Loco Moco spots in Hawaiʻi. What is the most important component of the Loco Moco? Some say itʻs the gravy. Some say itʻs the hamburger, with some establishments touting that they make their own patties in house. But the rice has to be just right. And the egg too; it has to be runny so that when pierced it creates a river into the gravy and rice.

Today a whole multitude of Loco Moco variants can be found. There is Fish Loco, Chili Moco, and Prime Rib Loco Moco. There is vegetarian, brown rice, you name it. Cafe 100 in Hilo offers more than 30 varieties.


Loco Moco has since spread beyond Hawaiʻi. Like the Aloha Spirit, it has become an ambassador for Hawaiʻi.

I was standing in line at Rainbowʻs Drive Inn when a tourist at the counter burst out, “How come he has a fried egg over his plate.” After some more commotion, I heard him say, “Send mine back. I want an egg too. I want to eat like the locals eat.” Perhaps there is a no more enjoyable and effective a way to connect with a culture and be a part of a community than through its food. Enjoy a Loco Moco and you will be a part of Hawaiʻiʻs culture and community. You will be local.


Yao G. Lowly loco moco makes it big. Hawaii Tribune-Herald. September 23, 1981. https://localfareytales.com/tag/lincoln-wreckers/#jp-carousel-564

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