More Chowder, Please, and Make It Mo’s

| April 24, 2010 | 10 Comments

Mo’s is the kind of place where you instantly feel at home. Now a chain of seafood cafés that dot the Oregon coast, the original café on the historic waterfront of Newport Bay boasts a big personality that began with its namesake, Mohava Marie Nieme or “Mo”, as she is affectionately remembered. Backing up the relaxing and friendly ambiance is a stellar menu of ocean-fresh seafood, especially the famous clam chowder. Mo’s has been serving up its outstanding seafood since 1946.

Mo's original café in Newport, Oregon more than doubled its dining area in the Spring of 2010 by expanding into the building next door, seen to the left of the original, above.

Clam chowder is serious comfort food. Serious too are the throngs of hungry diners who wait in line outside Mo’s door for upwards of 30-40 minutes for a table. Most will leave after inevitably enjoying a cup or bowl of the famous chowder. You can order Mo’s frozen clam chowder base by the quart and all you add after thawing is milk. It is shipped all over the US except Alaska and Hawaii. If you live in Oregon, many grocers carry it in the freezer section.

Mo's Clam Chowder with a pat of extra butter on top

As you might expect from bigger-than-life personalities like Mo, bigger-than-life events are unavoidable. Her clientele is peppered with famous politicians, Hollywood and entertainment personalities.

Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Henry Fonda and Lee Remmick, along with the cast and crew of the movie Sometimes a Great Notion frequented Mo’s and befriended her. Mo even appeared in a scene in the movie.

Bobby Kennedy dined here on his way to Los Angeles in the summer of 1968. He left with a couple of buckets of chowder and even invited Mo to join them on the trip. She declined then afterward regretted her decision. Senator Kennedy was later assassinated shortly after a campaign speech at The Ambassador Hotel.

One of the touching pieces of history that still adorns Mo’s is the garage door that was installed after a patron inadvertently drove into the restaurant instead of backing out of her parking space.

Mo's Garage Door

“Early one morning a woman returned to her car parked outside the restaurant, put it in drive instead of reverse, and crashed through the front of the café. Mo, far from disgruntled, put her arm comfortingly around the woman and said, ‘Well, we’ll just put in a garage door so you can drive in anytime you want.’ To this day the garage door on the front of the restaurant is raised on nice days and turns Mo’s into an instant sidewalk café.”

Mo’s Story

Visiting the Oregon coast is one of our favorite pastimes and is an easy day’s escape from Salem. Just cruising along US 101 with no itinerary is never boring. Whether it’s clear blue skies or storming, it’s always a show. A typical coastal outing begins at Lincoln City and goes at least as far as Newport or sometimes Yachats or Florence. Almost all of these include lunch at Mo’s in Newport and a few moments whale-watching or just enjoying the vista at Cape Foulweather, the highest point on the Oregon coast.

Cape Foulweather, a great lookout for whale-watching

Look carefully in the background of the photo below to see a seagull dropping a large shellfish to break it open for breakfast.

Vic and Kyle, my great-nephew, explore the tide pools at Lincoln City

Mo’s shares a few recipes on her site but not the clam chowder. If you just can’t wait, here’s a wonderful recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated that should allow you to have clam chowder on your table this evening.

Soul-satisfying clam chowder

Clam Chowder
Adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe

  1. 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, diced
  2. 1 large onion, cut into a medium dice, about 2 cups (480 ml.)
  3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) all-purpose flour
  4. 16 oz. (480 ml.) bottled clam juice
  5. 3  6½ oz. (184 gr., or 552 gr. total) cans of chopped clams
  6. 1 10 oz. (283.5 gr.) can of baby clams
  7. 1 cup (240 ml.) water (See note)
  8. 1½ pounds (680 gr.) boiling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
  9. 1 large bay leaf
  10. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml.) dried thyme
  11. 1 cup (240 ml.) heavy cream
  12. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fresh parsley, minced
  13. Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
  • Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until it is crisp and brown, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes more.
  • Add the flour while stirring constantly until it is lightly colored, about a minute or so.
  • Gradually whisk in the water, the bottled clam juice along with the juice from the canned clams.
  • Add the potatoes, bay leaf and thyme.
  • Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes or so.
  • Add the clams, cream, parsley, salt (if necessary) and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and serve.

Serves 6.

Note: My chowder wasn’t as thick as I wanted so I eliminated the water and added additional flour as needed.

Bon appétit

— Charles

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Category: Soup

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (10)

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  1. Marlene says:

    Guess I wouldn’t know Kyle if I saw him. I know you had a good visit and really good eating at Mo’s. Marlene

  2. Gramps says:

    Was reading he recipe and got to wondering why no one ever adds Oriental fish sauce to chowder? Popped into my head for no reason


  3. Charles says:

    Marlene, Kyle’s going on 13 now and knows it all. He’s very bright!

    Gramps, Never thought of that either. Will get back to you when we find out.

  4. George Stone says:

    Comming to the coast in a few days and am looking forwards to eating at Mo’s at least a couple of time.
    Can’t wait..

  5. Charles says:

    George - Where are you coming from? While you’re there, try to dine at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay and if you’re in Garibaldi - fish and chips at Fisherman’s Korner on the wharf. I go there every time we’re in Garibaldi.

  6. april moore says:

    Wow the pictures are almost edible. Great content…

  7. John says:

    Mo’s your prices are getting to spendy though please try to keep your food prices down thanks, word is spreading.

  8. lose twitter says:

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  9. Victor says:

    Follow us on Twitter @TasteofOregon

  10. MIKE DIXON says:


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