Hawaiian cuisine in the Palouse food scene

Restaurant LocoGrinz fills stomachs, provides welcoming atmosphere



Two LocoGrinz employees ringing up a customer during Friday night rush.

CARSON HOLLAND, Evergreen columnist

As students settle into their classes and routines, many may have grown tired of eating another meal of chicken strips or pizza from the dining hall. Or maybe the tedium of going to the grocery store and cooking is just a little too much after the first couple of weeks. 

There are plenty of restaurants in Pullman to satisfy even the most particular foody, but even I get tired of going to the same restaurants. Luckily for us at WSU, Moscow is only a 20-minute drive east. 

LocoGrinz is a Moscow local-owned restaurant that provides tasty Hawaiian BBQ at a price that makes the car ride over more than worth it. 

Located on Main Street, LocoGrinz is easy to find, with a large sign out front. The only trouble may be finding a parking space. Though with a little practice in parallel parking, it should not be a problem. 

Entering the restaurant, the staff greeted us warmly, and we were happy to see that despite the dismal weather outside, the restaurant was busy. With the excited chatter of people enjoying food and company, the environment was cheerful and inviting.  

“We found the spot walking around one day,” Moscow local Robert Wride said. “It really is the place to be for good food, I always get the chicken teriyaki but everything on the menu is good here.” 

Looking around at what other customers had ordered and what was currently being prepared on the grill, my mouth was watering. It is always a good sign in a restaurant when you are excited about the food before even trying it. 

When tasked with deciding which of the delicious-sounding options we were going to try, we were handed the menu and eventually settled on Kalua pork with cabbage, white rice and macaroni salad. 

The food came out quickly, and the service was friendly. As a testament to how good the food was, my photographer nor I talked for a few minutes as we dove into the meal. Only after trying a bite of everything could we express how much we were enjoying the food.  

The pork was wonderfully flavored and paired well with the rice and chilled macaroni salad. Food that good was only assisted by how affordable it was; a plate of any of the options will not have your wallet groaning. 

From beef short ribs to chicken katsu, I highly doubt you can go wrong with ordering anything on the menu. There are a variety of sides to choose from and a vegetarian green curry option to round it all out. 

Founded in 2001, the restaurant is owned by Palouse locals Gayne and Tanya Nitta and has since changed from their first location near the Pullman Highway to the main business drag of Moscow. 

“We have just been going step by step,” Gayne said. “Hawaiian BBQ is kind of like Hawai’i’s fast food, and there was nothing like it here when we first started.” 

Gayne, part Native Hawaiian, was born in Moscow and raised on the Hawaiian Islands. He attended the University of Hawai’i, where he found his love of business and local cuisine. He would later move back to Moscow to attend law school at the University of Idaho. 

“After working at a higher-end restaurant in Honolulu, I learned a lot about the restaurant industry,” Gayne said. “I married my love of business and the restaurant industry together in LocoGrinz.”

All the prep work is done by the employees, and all the Hawaiian dishes and sauces are produced in-house at LocoGrinz. As we were wolfing down our meal, it was easy to appreciate the quality experience and well-made food. 

“We are focusing on producing the best product we can,” Gayne said. 

Moscow is not the end of LocoGrinz however. As Nitta shared, their long-term plans involve hopefully opening another restaurant in Lewiston, Idaho. This would ideally serve as a prototype for other locations if successful. 

For now, though, I am more than happy that LocoGrinz is within such short driving distance to Pullman. The quality of food and experience that I had only made me want to go back and try out the rest of the menu. I have my eye on the chicken katsu or the Loco Moco. 

Currently, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday- Saturday. The menu can be found on their website, along with their street address, if you are having trouble finding it. 

While you can order for pickup over the phone, I would heavily recommend eating in the restaurant to get a feel for the Moscow atmosphere. Supporting a local business committed to making a delicious product is what makes it all the better. At the very least, it is a good way of getting out of Pullman for a few hours.

LocoGrinz is a great locally owned restaurant with a unique offering of Hawaiian BBQ at a price point that won’t break the bank. If you are looking to try something new, make sure that LocoGrinz is high on your list!