This iconic Hawaiian meal is a must-try for every island visitor

Loco moco in a cake box

Rainbow Drive-In's gravy recipe is a decades-old family secret.

Shana Novak

A hamburger patty topped with eggs and smothered in gravy probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of iconic Hawaiian cuisine. However, put those ingredients together on a bed of white rice with a side of macaroni salad and you have a Loco Moco, a quintessential Hawaiian meal that no island visitor should leave without trying.

The Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, on the island of Oahu, has been drawing visitors to Honolulu since 1965, and will welcome them once again next week. Just a few miles away from the course, Rainbow Drive-In started serving up heaping plates of Loco Moco to locals and visitors a few years before that.

Chris Iwamura is the third-generation owner of Rainbow Drive-In. His grandfather Seiju Ifuku opened the restaurant after serving in World War II. Over the years, the restaurant has grown from serving hundreds of plates a day to thousands, across three locations.

“It’s not the sexiest dish in the world, but it’s comfort food,” Iwamura says of the Loco Moco’s lasting popularity. “Tourists come from all over the world just to try it, and we’re very honored.”

At Rainbow Drive-In, the recipe has remained unchanged over the decades, including the Loco Moco’s gravy, a family secret made in-house since 1961.

Given the smorgasbord of delightful tastes on the plate, how does one go about eating it? Iwamura recommends mixing a bit of everything into every bite. And to top it off?

“We’re also known for our slush float: a strawberry slush with ice cream on top,” he says. “It’s a lot of food, but, for us, to wash it down with a slush float is the perfect combination.” Editor

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