For years I had heard about Mo’s Seafood and Chowder. I heard about their chowder, and I heard about their fish combo dinners. But most of all I heard that people who moved away from Oregon couldn’t wait to get back to Mo’s. I wanted to understand why people loved Mo’s and find out if there was, indeed, a Mo.
During a visit to Cannon Beach and the Mo’s at Tolovana Park, the mystery was solved. I finally understand people’s obsession with Mo’s.
A Little Mo’s History
And, yes, there was a Mo. Mohava Marie Niemi and her father purchased the Bay Haven Inn on Newport’s waterfront in 1940. They sold the tavern in 1946, and Mo joined her friend Freddy Kent to start “Freddie and Mo’s.” The café eventually was owned solely by Mo and went by the name of Mo’s.
Mo also worked as a radio announcer for a neighborhood talk show. She was known for her warm personality and hospitality. Soon Mo’s Café became an institution on the waterfront.
According to the Mo’s website, Mo’s fame didn’t stop there. Once news commentator Paul Harvey walked in and asked, ‘Is there a Mo here? I’m supposed to meet her.’ Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Henry Fonda, Lee Remmick and the entire cast and crew of “Sometimes A Great Notion,” the movie made from author Ken Kesey’s novel, became friends of Mo’s while filming in Newport. Mo, herself, was in a scene which took place in the Bay Haven Inn, renamed “The Snag” in the film.
She became known for her chowder, and they began packaging and selling the product. All that took place on the second floor of Mo’s Café in Newport. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mo’s expanded to Lincoln City overlooking Siletz Bay, Florence on the Siuslaw River and Cannon Beach with its ocean view.
And now you’ll find Mo’s at the Portland International Airport.
The Mo’s Experience
One of the most scenic places to enjoy Mo’s chowder and more is right on the beach at the Tolovana Wayside. You can’t beat the view of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock from the deck.
I went to Mo’s at Cannon Beach on a sunny February day after a brisk walk on the beach. It was warm enough to sit outside, even though the breeze stole a napkin or two from the tables. That day I had the special and added a cup of chowder just because of the buzz. It was my first time.
The food was traditional fried seafood, and it was excellent. The coleslaw arrived with a huge pile of shrimp decorating it, but what surprised me was the chowder. It was creamy like most chowders, but it had a decidedly bacon flavor. I found out they do put bacon into their chowder. Here’s a recipe that I am told tastes very similar to Mo’s chowder.
It was one of the best clam chowders I had ever tasted. I was certain the clams were local. They didn’t have that “clammy” taste at all. The texture was perfect. I decided, on the spot that Mo’s was so Oregon Coast and I became hooked.
As I savored the lunch, the staff stopped by to chat. They are friendly at Mo’s. I enjoyed sitting out on the deck and watching the world go by, the seagulls riding the wind currents and people coming in for a cup of chowder.
While it’s a great place to enjoy Mo’s famous chowder, they do have more than fried food and chowder. You can try their wonderful bouillabaisse, fish tacos, burgers or salads. And there is no better way to top off a meal than to try their marionberry cobbler.
You can enjoy Mo’s food at Newport, Otter Rock, Florence, Lincoln City, Cannon Beach, PDX and Astoria. They also serve northwest beers, wine and cocktails.
Mo is no longer with us, but her passion for chowder and bringing it to more and more people continues through the company. In addition to having a presence at the Portland airport, Mo’s now has a food truck. They are hitting the road, serving chowder, fish and chips, and more in their iconic Mo’s vehicle.
To learn more, follow Mo’s Seafood and Chowder on Facebook.