Mo's Restaurant has been around as long as I've been going to the Oregon Coast and is something I look forward to doing.
A writer for USA Today named the Original Mo's in Newport of the top 5 can't miss eateries on the Pacific Coast Hwy. Pretty impressive, I'd say!
The full menu, consisting of seafood favorites, salads and more is great, but the Mo's famous clam chowder is what they are known for and is the biggest draw for tourists.
A trip down to the coast just isn't complete until I sit down to a sourdough bread bowl of Mo's famous clam chowder and a Coke. A sunny day in Newport with the doors of the Mo's Annex wide open is a treat all it's own.
Let's take a time machine, shall we? The whole story began back in 1940, when Mohava Marie Niemi and her father bought a tavern on Newport's waterfront called the Bay Haven Inn.
Six years later, they sold the tavern and Mo and her friend, Freddie Kent, started a small restaurant that they appropriately named, "Freddie and Mo's." Sadly, Freddie became ill a couple years later and Mo bought her out. She promptly truncated the name to Mo's Restaurant.
Mo had just recently divorced and, with two sons, it quickly became apparent that she would need to get a second job to make ends meet.
She secured a position as a radio announcer at KNPT radio. She became a local talk show host and remained in that position until sometime in the mid-1970s.
In 1955, she married her second husband and fisherman, Kaino "Dutch" Niemi. Dutch could often be found at a table at Mo's Restaurant, chatting with his old fishing buddies.
The hospitable personalities of the couple gave the restaurant a charm all it's own and people would flock from far and wide to grab a cozy table for some food and friendship.
On busy days when Mo found it necessary to double as a hostess, she would get a plate of halibut and some oysters to pass out to the crowd of people waiting outside to get in.
Through the years, many famous people passed through the Mo's restaurant doors such as Governors Tom McCall and Neil Goldschmidt; Senators Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood; Representative Les AuCoin, Senator Robert Kennedy, and radio personality, Paul Harvey.
The entire cast and crew (including the likes of Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Henry Fonda, Lee Remmick) of the classic movie, "Sometimes A Great Notion" became close chums with Mo when they were filming the movie in Newport.
In 1968, Mo's Annex came into being, located just across the street and overlooking Yaquina Bay.
In 1972, Mo's West at Devils Punchbowl in Otter Rock opened. Mo began to relax the reigns quite a bit by the mid-seventies, allowing her granddaughter, Cindy McEntee, to take over much of the managerial work.
Soon after, a whirlwind idea came about of packaging the famous clam chowder base and selling it frozen to retail outlets across the country. About 500,000 pounds of clam chowder is shipped to stores every year, as well as to the Mo's restaurants.
From the seventies through the eighties, Mo's expanded again to Lincoln City overlooking Siletz Bay; Florence on the Siuslaw River; and beautiful Cannon Beach. There is also one in Florence. Mo's was a hit.
At a great loss to the Oregon Coast, Mohava Marie Niemi died in 1992 at the age of 79.
Her legacy lives on to this day and in 1999, Mo's Clam Chowder was a featured entree at the first luncheon ever held in the Smithsonian Institute, which celebrated the "Best American Regional Foods." She would have been proud. ;)
It's not that you can't find seafood along the coastline that is just as good. You can. There is simply an aura about this classic seafood restaurant that keeps people coming back again and again.
On the other hand, the clam chowder is a real treat. It is a simple, creamy, New England style that is loaded with potatoes and is a perfect consistency. A steaming cup or bowl is the cat's pajamas on a cold, rainy day.
If you have never been to a Mo's Restaurant, I would highly recommend it. I think that it will quickly become a favorite of yours, too. If you have been there, it's probably about time for a return visit, don't ya think? ;)