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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Hawaii eats section

 •  Pizza in the Raw takeout an Island novelty

By Edward Morita
Special to Metromix

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The loco moco at Nico's at Pier 38 tops our list of the island's best loco moco.


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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Pineapple Room puts a gourmet spin on the local favorite — the patty is made from Big Island beef, the gravy is veal jus and the rice is local-style fried rice.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Who makes the best loco moco? We tried 10 different versions of the local classic to find our favorites. These are our top five:


There are a lot of things we love about Nico's loco moco. First is the rich mushroom gravy, with its rich demi-glace flavor. (And they're not afraid to dish it out.) We also found the hamburger to have good sear and a tasty amount of char. At $7.65, it's also a really good deal since they include chow mein and either mac salad or tossed greens.

Nico's at Pier 38, 1133 N. Nimitz Highway, 540-1377


It's not cheap at $18.50, but it's well worth the price. Served on a mound of fried rice and topped with veal jus, there are plenty of flavors at work here, but the thing we love most: The hamburger is made from Big Island Kuahiwi beef. The hamburger patty in this loco moco is flavorful, juicy and HUGE.

The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong, Macy's in Ala Moana Center, 945-6573


Big City Diner's loco moco ($9.99) is without a doubt one of the best loco mocos in town. The hamburger has a wonderful charred crust on it, and the gravy is delicious. It's even better when you order it with either Uncle Danny's fried rice, or Grandma's kim chee fried rice (add $1.99).

Big City Diner; locations in Kailua, Pearlridge, Kaimukí, Waipahu and Ward Entertainment Center


What we love about The Counter is that your loco moco is only limited by your imagination. Just like with its build-your-own burgers, you can Build Your Own Bowl ($10.95 for 1/3-pound burger, $13.50 for 2/3-pound burger, $15.50 for a one-pound burger). So instead of selecting what kind of bun you want, you can opt to have your order on rice. With 10 cheeses, 29 toppings and 18 sauces (19 if you count the loco moco gravy), there's literally an almost limitless array of combinations to choose from.

The Counter, 4211 Wai'alae Ave., 739-5100


Wally Ho's is probably the only place where you can get a safety check for your car while you eat a loco moco. What we like most about Wally Ho's moco ($6.50) is the flame-broiled flavor of the hamburger patty. Of all the places we visited, Wally Ho's has the best char. The patty is moist and juicy on the inside, with a grill-marked outer crust.

Wally Ho's Garage & Grill, 98-380 Kamehameha Highway, 488-2220


May is National Hamburger Month (who knew, right?) and Wolfgang's Steakhouse is offering its signature half-pound prime sirloin burger for $10 (it's normally $14) during lunch hours (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) through May 31. The thick and juicy patty comes cooked to order and is accompanied by a massive helping of steak-house fries AND onion rings. Other burger joints at which we suggest celebrating meat month: Teddy's Bigger Burgers (www.teddysbiggerburgers.com), Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop (www.kua-aina.com), The Counter (739-5100).


Royal Hawaiian Center, 2301 Kalakaua Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 5-10:30 p.m. Sundays



Cinnamon's Restaurant's (261-8724) newest must-try creation: red velvet pancakes. The beet-red flapjacks taste exactly like the best red velvet cake and come drizzled with a cream cheese glaze. The pancakes are available through May, but could make it onto the menu permanently if they continue to, um, sell like hotcakes.


Restaurant openings and closings:

Well Bento, the beloved home of the healthy plate lunch, closed its doors last week. The owners have said there are no plans to reopen.

Japanese restaurant Matsunoki on King Street has closed.

After just a couple of months in business , La Havana on Wai'alae Avenue (next door to The Fat Greek) has closed. Chef Sean Priester of the popular Soul Patrol lunchwagon is opening his first restaurant in the space sometime before summer.

Honolulu's first and only all-vegan lunch spot opened last week at 2239 S. King St. (upstairs from Diego's Taco Shop). The Peace Cafe (951-7555) offers a menu of sandwiches, salads and desserts made with organic and local ingredients.