Our Top 5: Construction workers’ loco moco picks

Ah, the loco moco. Just saying those words takes me back to my childhood. A loco moco is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s savory, gooey, hearty, sometimes even creamy. It’s local comfort food at its finest. There are many variations, but the traditional loco moco consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg or two and gravy.

My husband is a carpenter and quite the loco moco enthusiast, and so are his co-workers and friends. Good meals, he says, are often the topic of conversation over lunch. I wanted to get the low-down on their favorite picks for this island favorite.

The egg plays a big part.

The egg plays a big part.

So here’s the criteria for a good loco moco, according to some of our construction worker friends:

First, the patty has to be good. By “good,” all the boys agree that it has to appear homemade. That means it’s going to be soft, juicy, with just the right amount of meaty flavor seasoned simply with salt and pepper, kind of like meatloaf.

Second, the gravy is essential. “Gravy everywhere!” our friend Ikaika says. “Not just gravy all over, but gravy everywhere, in the rice, on the mac salad, all over the top.” It’s a bonus if the gravy has mushrooms, and all the guys agree it’s even better to have onions.

The egg is key. Some even like to order an extra egg to increase the yolkiness of the dish. My husband likes to add teri sauce to give it that semi-sweet and savory combination. Finally, price has to match the serving and the value must be good.

Now that we’ve established the ground rules, here are our top 5 construction worker loco mocos.

No. 5: Bob’s Bar-B-Que, $8.95

No. 5 Bob's Bar-B-Que — two patties and two eggs.

No. 5 Bob’s Bar-B-Que — two patties and two eggs, also comes with a side of mac salad in their famous paper cup.

Bob’s is known for its delicious BBQ meats. This moco is swimming in gravy, which is somewhat light and not overpowering. Daniel, my husband, loves to grab the side teri sauce and drizzle it on the plate. The patty is thin, the eggs are perfectly cooked, and the dish is well-seasoned and affordably priced.

1366 Dillingham Blvd., Kalihi, 842-3663, open daily 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.

No. 4: Kakaako Kitchen, $10.95

No. 4 Kakaako Kitchen — KK's beef patty, caramelized onion gravy and two eggs.

No. 4 Kakaako Kitchen — KK’s beef patty, caramelized onion gravy and two eggs.

This staple in Kakaako is bustling with construction workers daily. Tried and true, the real gem of this dish is the gravy. The guys say they could eat the gravy on a side of rice alone. Its layers of flavor top a good amount of beef, two eggs and rice. Greens or mac salad come on the side, and there’s a choice of kalua pig if you want to switch it up.

1200 Ala Moana Blvd., Kakaako, 808-596-7488, Mon-Thur 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri and Sat 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

No. 3: Home Bar & Grill, $12

3. Home Bar & Grill - massive portion of rice, mac salad, two eggs and gravy all over.

3. Home Bar & Grill – massive portion of rice, mac salad, two eggs and gravy all over.

Known for its homestyle comfort food and friendly bar atmosphere, Home Bar also delivers a massive loco moco. The rice is smothered in dark brown gravy, the eggs are soft and perfectly seasoned. For a construction worker who is hungry after a long day of work, this goes down nicely with an ice cold beer. There’s also a lot of construction nearby, so Home Bar is convenient for the fellas, and ladies, working on the roadways and new buildings going up.

1683 Kalakaua Ave., Ala Moana, 808-942-2235, open Mon-Sat 2 p.m. – 2 a.m. except during football season and special sporting events

No. 2: HI Steaks, $10.99

HI Steaks - #5 Combo, Top Sirloin ground steak loco moco with a 24 oz drink.

No. 2 HI Steaks – #5 Combo, Top Sirloin ground steak loco moco with a 24 oz drink.

HI Steaks has us at top sirloin. That’s right, this dish comes in at number two not only because it’s in the heart of Waikiki, where a ton of construction is going on right now, but also because of its killer combination of quality and affordability. This hidden gem in the Food Pantry on Kuhio Avenue makes what it calls a top sirloin ground steak loco moco. It’s known as the best place in Waikiki to score a delicious, hearty and perfectly cooked loco moco. Plus it’s got the bonus fried onions on top. The $10.99 price includes a drink.

2370 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki, 808-922-8726, open daily 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.

No. 1. The Alley @ Aiea Bowl, $11.95

The loco moco at The Alley comes in three versions: breakfast, lunch and XL.

No. 1 The loco moco at The Alley comes in three versions: breakfast, lunch and XL.

You’ll understand why people say this loco moco is like butter when you slice into it. Mmmmm. All the carpenters agree that this spot is the best. The loco moco is truly is amazing. The patty is soft, seasoned nicely, moist and perfectly cooked with a little char on the edges. The brown gravy is homemade and buttery. The eggs are perfectly cooked to order. The regular lunch portion comes with two patties, two eggs, two scoops of rice and choice of green salad or mac salad. Every morsel of this loco moco is to die for!

99-115 Aiea Heights Dr., Aiea, 808-488-6855, Sun-Wed 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Thu-Sat 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Happy eating!

locoend

How not to DUI: 5 best bets

It’s summertime. With friends and family visiting and fun festivals like Joy of Sake, Hawaii Food and Wine and the annual Waikiki Ho’olaulea coming up, people are perhaps enjoying a drink (or two, or three). Summer also means you could run into DUI checkpoints at unannounced times and locations statewide.

I am a firm believer that buzzed driving is drunk driving, so I’ve broken out the pros and cons of five options to get you home in one piece. Please be safe and have fun!

Go old-fashioned: Cab it

Cab It!

Cab It!

Pros
• Fares are regulated
• Can reserve in advance so you don’t have to wait
• For larger groups you can book a van
• Pony Taxi offers a Fox Driver, a service where one driver picks you up while another drives your car home. The cost doubles because essentially you are getting two drivers

Cons
• If you don’t spot a cab, you’ll have to call and maybe end up waiting for one
• Fares don’t include tip
• You’ll need cash or credit card to pay
• The estimated cost of a cab from Ala Moana Center to Kahala Mall is $25

Designated driver

Don't Drink & Drive

Don’t Drink & Drive

Pros
• DDs are your friends
• Everyone saves money
• Some venues offer free soft drinks to DDs; the Honolulu Brewers Festival offers a discount

Cons
• Possible hassles finding parking (but hey, you’re carpooling)
• DD has to put up with everyone’s drunken antics while sober
• Not many cons, really

Limo or party bus

Pros
• You can schedule pickup and drop-off times
• Fun for large groups
• Premium sound systems, LED TVs, lasers and full bars
• Luxury Limo Hawaii charges $200 an hour for a 15-person bus, or about $13 per person per hour

Party safely

Party safely

Cons
• You still have to tip
• You need a lot of friends to make this cost-effective
• Flaky friends? You’ll end up paying more per person
• If you’re having too much fun, extending your rental will cost more

Get a Lyft

Get a Lyft

Get a Lyft

Pros
• Mobile app summons the driver to your location
• You can see a photo of the driver and vehicle before you choose
• Often more casual and friendly than a taxi — you might even be encouraged to sit in front
• Cash-free: The app charges your credit card
• Tip is included
• Sometimes drivers offer water, gum or candy
• The cost from Ala Moana Center to Kahala Mall could start at $17-29

Cons
• Lyft PT, or prime time, pricing jumps during peak hours
• If your phone battery dies, you’re out on the street looking for a cab, or catching the bus
• Unscheduled, so promptness depends on availability
• Some areas don’t have Lyft drivers yet
• You don’t know what kind of insurance the driver has

Uber

Uber

UBER

Pros
• Also a mobile app
• Cashless; No need to tip for UberX
• Drivers offer water
• You can see photos of driver and car and track where they are
• Rumored to have nicer cars
• Ride from Ala Moana Center to Kahala Mall could cost you $12-$26

Cons
• Uber surge pricing can be double the normal rate
• Surge areas are said to be larger than Lyft’s
• Unscheduled, so promptness depends on availability
• Sometimes your mobile locator can be off and the driver is not in the same location as you

 

How hard is indoor climbing, really?

My first time at Volcanic Climbing & Fitness on the corner of Punahou and Beretania. Fitness for me is a way of life. I stay active by hiking, swimming, surfing and yoga. I’ve heard about more extreme sports like parkour, bouldering and indoor rock climbing, but I’ve never had the chance to give it a go. Until now.

Volcanic Rock Climbing and Fitness opened its doors just over a month ago and invited me in. It’s a full-service gym, but what I really wanted to try was the indoor rock climbing because it’s considered one of the most challenging and adrenaline-pumping of sports. “We have young people who climb, older people, kids. It’s a great date activity,” says marketing manager Dane Nakama. “You’re really going to feel it in your fingers and forearms. As you climb more and more it’s going to work absolutely everything.”

I was not surprised to realize that “absolutely everything” includes your brain. This is a great way to build strength and work on your core, legs, arms, even fingers and hands, but it’s also very challenging mentally. You have to strategize how you are going to climb the wall, where you are going to put your hands and feet. Honestly, it takes a lot of problem-solving.

This remodeled gym and spa opened a month and a half ago. You can park in the Punahou Banyan parking lot for $2.

This remodeled gym and spa opened over a month ago. You can park in the Punahou Banyan parking lot for $2.

The wall covers the entire right side of the gym and looks like something from outer space. There are colorful, odd-shaped rocks and stickers with different patterns. Each marks a different part of the course and is color-coded. If you follow a certain path, you’ll be on a specific climbing route with its own name and goal. Obviously the objective is to get to the top, hit the final rock with both hands and climb, or fall down. It’s OK, though, because the floor is very bouncy and they also have padding to help cushion a fall.

A day pass is $25, a monthly membership including all access to the gym, equipment, pool, yoga, sauna, steam room and more starts at $99 a month.

A day pass is $25, a monthly membership including all access to the gym, equipment, pool, yoga, sauna, steam room and more starts at $99 a month.

I am in good shape, but not the best shape of my life. While I could definitely tone up and lose some pounds, this indoor climbing for me was doable. I was briefed near the training wall and shown how to place my feet, toes and hands (they give you special shoes that help with foot places and better use of your toes). Then I got the green light.

Climbing is quite challenging. But the feeling is incredible. You are using your entire body and harnessing muscles perhaps never used before. The nicest thing about this experience is the support from the staff and fellow climbers who are friendly, kind and encouraging. As far as fitness regimens go, gym members and staff say this type of workout and setting keeps you from getting bored. “There are things that I want to do here. This is fun,” Nakama says. “There’s reasons to get me to the gym, and historically that’s the hardest part of any workout.”

Here’s a quick video of my experience:

 

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Volcanic Climbing & Fitness
1212 Punahou Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
Indoor climbing wall, weights, cardio equipment, yoga, fitness classes, indoor pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, ice plunge, locker rooms and showers
Monday-Friday 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

*Note: They also have a killer smoothie and bowl bar with amazing acai bowls.

Something new: Kountry Style Kitchen

Kountry Style Kitchen

Kountry Style Kitchen in Ewa Beach is the sister restaurant to the Kauai icon Kountry Kitchen in Kapaa, which opened its doors in 1975.

There’s a new brunch spot… not in town, but in Ewa Beach. What’s unique about this restaurant is that it’s held a special place in the hearts of Kauai residents and Garden Isle visitors for four decades now. You’re hearing me correctly, the famous Kountry Kitchen from Kapaa, Kauai has now made its way to Oahu.

A family-owned and operated eatery, Kountry Kitchen on Kauai is famous for its homemade cornbread, island-style brunch and American classics, along with its iconic checkered tablecloths and line of hungry patrons waiting outside. As a kid I remember eating there on special occasions, when guests were visiting from out of town or when we wanted to eat out for breakfast, burgers or pork chops. I was excited to hear that the owners chose to expand to Oahu.

Rolando Espinosa was once a mechanic and is now the chef/owner of the new Oahu restaurant, which quietly opened its doors just a few weeks ago.

Rolando Espinosa was once a mechanic and is now the chef/owner of the new Oahu restaurant, which quietly opened its doors just a few weeks ago.

Rolando and Susana Espinosa (brother and sister) are the proud owners of the new digs, located on Kaimalie Street off of Fort Weaver Road. The pair had been researching for the right spot on Oahu for a while now. Susana commutes from Kauai, while Rolando moved to Oahu soon after Hurricane Iniki struck in 1992. “We found the space at Ewa Pointe Shopping Center. Ewa was the place; it reminds us of Kauai, and we wanted to cater to the kamaaina,” she said.

The pair pride themselves on offering homemade treats, including the famous cornbread, serving fruits and vegetables from local farmers and making comfort food for those on the Ewa Plain (and beyond) who love brunch, don’t want to drive into town.

I had a chance to sample some of the local favorites. Here’s a look:

Here it is the famous cornbread, and it's as good as I remember. Buttery, moist, not too sweet and has just right amount of corn crunch.

Here it is the famous cornbread, and it’s as good as I remember. Buttery, moist, not too sweet and has just right amount of corn crunch.

 

They are also famous for their 12" pancakes. They offer banana, macadamia nut, chocolate chip, coconut or strawberry. This was the day's special chocolate chip with bacon. The pancake is huge, yet mildly crisp on the edges and has a light dough center. I love to pair the pancakes with their coconut syrup.

They are also famous for their 12-inch pancakes. They offer banana, macadamia nut, chocolate chip, coconut or strawberry. This was the day’s special chocolate chip with bacon. The pancake is huge, yet mildly crisp on the edges and has a light dough center. I love to pair the pancakes with their coconut syrup. $5.75-6.75

 

One of the most popular items is the loco moco, you can also substitute the hamburger patty for kalua pig or corned beef hash. The hamburger was too tough for my liking, although it was well seasoned and the gravy was perfect and amazing.

One of the most popular items is the loco moco. You can also substitute the hamburger patty for kalua pig or corned beef hash. The hamburger was too tough for my liking, although it was well seasoned and the gravy was perfect and amazing. $10-12.50

The omelettes are very large and stuffed with yummy goodness. They have everything from the Denver to a Mediterranean omelette. My favorite was the Polynesian, which was bursting with flavor and full of Portuguese sausage, kim chee and onions. You can also build your own omelette. They come with a choice of hash browns, rice or fresh fruit and cornbread or toast (get the cornbread). LOL

The omelettes are very large and stuffed with yummy goodness. They have everything from the Denver to a Mediterranean omelette. My favorite was the Polynesian, which was bursting with flavor and full of Portuguese sausage, kim chee and onions. You can also build your own omelette.

Each omelette comes with your choice of hash browns, rice or fresh fruit and cornbread or toast (get the cornbread). You won't leave hungry that's for sure. They range in price from $7-$11.25.

Each omelette comes with your choice of hash browns, rice or fresh fruit and cornbread or toast (get the cornbread). You won’t leave hungry that’s for sure. They range in price from $7-$11.25.

The decor is diner meets country inn. The customers so far are all residents who live nearby and the service is very attentive, yet boasts that local charm.

The decor is diner meets country inn. The customers so far are all residents who live nearby and the service is very attentive, yet boasts that local charm.

Overall, this place reminds me of home. As I drove from town to the Ewa Plain I realized how much development has taken place over the past couple of years. For those who live in East Honolulu, this would be worth the drive if you plan to shop at Waikele, surf White Plains Beach or meet up with friends and family members on the westside. I’m sure it’s a welcome addition for those who are looking for a new place to get some honest local grinds (they also serve burgers, plate lunches, soups and salads too).

 

Kountry Style Kitchen
91-1001 Kaimalie St.
808-689-9000
Open everyday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
10% off to military, seniors and first-responders.

Water baby heaven at Spa Montage Maui

imageI’ve said it before: I am a water baby. I love the water — ocean, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, water parks, pools, you name it! I also don’t do very much to pamper myself. I cut my own hair, have no beauty regimen and skip the facials and manicures. The one thing I do indulge in is a massage every now and then, so when you combine massages and a water spa, you know I’m going to be there.

100 Bay Drive, Kapalua (Maui)

100 Bay Dr., Kapalua, Maui

On a recent visit to Maui (props to Melissa Chang for inviting me to be her guest at the Kapalua Wine Festival) I got to visit the Montage Kapalua Bay and check out the Spa Montage. I had never heard of the Montage before. It’s actually a year-old, all-suite luxury hotel that was formerly The Residences at Kapalua Bay. The 24-acre oceanfront resort underwent a $15 million renovation.

This sounds fancy shmancy, but you can enjoy the facilities and spa amenities without being a hotel guest by grabbing a day pass for $55 (disclaimer: My day pass was graciously provided by Spa Montage). The spa offers a kama’aina 10 percent discount. There’s also a fitness center, classes, a juice bar and all kinds of massages and beauty treatments.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the Spa Montage and the cool amenities you can access with a day pass.

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Here is the highlight: a hot jacuzzi with waterfall on your right and a cool, refreshing bamboo rainforest on your left. For an immunity boost they recommend going from the hot to the cold three times — which I had a lot of fun doing by myself. Sit in the jacuzzi for 4 to 5 minutes, then jump into the cold rain for 45 seconds, repeat. You feel refreshed, invigorated and alive.

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They also have a dry sauna and a eucalyptus steam room. These two areas are clothing optional, so I didn’t take any photos. The steam room was delightful and opened all the senses. Once you step outside you can take an ice cold towelette to cool off.

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The outside area is coed. You can relax in the jacuzzi or take a dip in the infinity pool. It was very relaxing with the sounds of rain and chirping birds. There’s lemon cucumber water, sunscreen and magazines to read. What was especially nice was there were no children, no one talking, so you could let your mind rest and drift into relaxation.

The hot waterfall into the jacuzzi was unique, a lot of fun and very relaxing. Loved this massage!

The hot waterfall into the jacuzzi was unique, a lot of fun and very relaxing. Loved this massage!

I’ve visited spas around the world. Some had hydrotherapy options and some didn’t. This was by far the best I have experienced. I loved the way the spa brought together the comfort of nature with luxury. It was private yet allowed for an open tropical setting which was a treat for the senses.

Spa Montage at Kapalua Bay
100 Bay Dr., Lahaina, HI 96761
808-662-6600