1 Feature: Featured
It isn't Newport without Mo's
Many things in Newport have changed since Mo’s Restaurant opened on the Historic Bayfront in 1946, but the principles and philosophy behind the original little seafood eatery have not.
Mohava Marie Neimi, affectionately known as “Mo” by the thousands of people who have met her over the years, believed that her customers were entitled to the best food that the Oregon Coast had to offer at a fair price. In addition to providing locals and visitors with fresh, homemade seafood, Mo had a remarkable impact on the coast that continues to this day.
Mo’s first venture on the Historic Bayfront began in 1940 when she and her father bought the Bay Haven Inn (which is located just down the street from original Mo’s, and has been serving customers since 1908). Six years later, Mo and her friend Freddie opened a little café named Freddie and Mo’s, but Mo bought Freddie’s share a few years later and changed the name to Mo’s. This original location has been open ever since.
The restaurant became a local hotspot right away and was known as “the little joint on the waterfront,” where fishermen and locals would gather to relax and share their stories. Around the time of the opening, Mo also started hosting a neighborhood talk show at the local radio station, KNPT, where she would discuss local issues with the residents of Newport for the next 30 years. One morning, a woman accidentally ran into the front of the café, and was visibly upset, until Mo comforted her by saying,” Well, we’ll just put in a garage door so you can drive in anytime you want.” The garage door is still a fixture of the building and is often opened during warm days.
Mo had developed an amazing recipe for clam chowder when she first opened the restaurant, and many of the early guests told her that it was the best that they had ever had. Those guests told their friends about the chowder, and the restaurant soon became known for the delicious coastal delicacy. People would come from miles around to try the chowder, and sometimes they even had to wait in line to get into the restaurant. Mo would often host guests who had come to eat, and if there were people waiting in line, she would bring out a plate of halibut and oysters for them to snack on while they waited.
Mo personally welcomed thousands of guests into her restaurant, and in doing so, she met many prominent people. Legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey sought out the restaurant, and when he arrived, he asked if he could meet Mo. Famous Oregon Governor Tom McCall, Senator Mark Hatfield, and Representative Les AuCoin were regular visitors, and even Senator Robert Kennedy stopped in at Mo’s Restaurant when he passed through Oregon on his presidential tour in 1968. Senator Kennedy liked Mo’s chowder so much that he took several buckets with him when he flew on to Los Angeles.
When the movie “Sometimes a Great Notion” was filmed in and around Newport in 1970, Mo met Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Henry Fonda, Lee Remmick, and other members of the cast. The cast and crew of the movie would often come to eat at Mo’s Restaurant, and Mo became good friends with them. Mo was even in a scene of the movie that was filmed at the Bay Haven Inn.
As more and more people began to discover the restaurant, Mo decided it was time to expand and establish new locations. In 1968, Mo’s Annex went in across the street from the original restaurant, and Mo’s West at Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock was opened in 1972. By the early 1980s, Mo had expanded her restaurants to Lincoln City, Florence, and Cannon Beach. Mo began to take a less active role in running the restaurants by the late 1970s, and her granddaughter Cindy McEntee, who had worked with Mo for most of her life, took over many of the management duties.
In 1989, Mo gave Rogue Ales, another well-known Newport institution, a helping hand in relocating to the coast. Shortly after the original Rogue Alehouse was founded in Ashland, Oregon, the building that housed the brewery and pub was flooded beyond repair. Rogue founder Jack Joyce was visiting Newport after the flood, and he met Mo. Over a bowl of clam chowder, they agreed that Mo would rent Jack the vacant storefront and garage that she owned on Newport’s Historic Bayfront, under two conditions: that Rogue would promise to feed the local fishermen and that a photo of Mo in a bathtub would forever hang above the bar (and a copy of the photo hangs there and in every Rogue Meeting Hall to this day).
Although Mo passed away in 1992 at the age of 79, her legacy has lived on through the positive work ethic she instilled in her family, and the time, energy, and money that she gave to the community. Dozens of newspaper and magazine articles have been written about Mo and her restaurant. Mo’s Clam Chowder was featured at the Smithsonian Institute’s “Best American Regional Foods” event in 1999, and Cindy McEntee was awarded the 2001 1st runner up, National Small Business Person of the Year for the “outstanding development of her business and her contributions to the community.”
Mo was an important part of Newport’s growth and identity, and her spirit and philosophy live on through the restaurant and through her family who still operates it.