On Friday, July 27, the newest Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style restaurant will open for business at 1102 Washington Blvd., Ogden. The popular local chain was founded in Bountiful 10 years ago by Kalani and Kimo Mack, two brothers who were born and raised in Hawaii and started out driving city buses, of all things.
After six years of driving mass transit, Kalani Mack had gotten tired of the job. So in 1998 he and his family moved to Utah, where his wife’s parents lived. Kimo Mack lasted another 10 years as a bus driver in paradise, eventually joining his brother in Utah in 2008.
Kalani Mack says the two brothers had always talked about opening a business together, but they just never found the right opportunity. And then, they hit on the idea of selling Hawaiian plate lunches — basically, a chicken or beef entree with two scoops of rice and one scoop of to-die-for macaroni salad. The meat is grilled over an open flame.
“Our restaurant is kind of patterned after a Sunday afternoon on the islands,” Mack said. “Maybe you’re at the beach, or in somebody’s backyard, and you’ve got a little hibachi going, grilling over the coals.”
Part of the reason the Mack brothers decided to open the first Mo’ Bettahs is that they simply couldn’t get good Hawaiian-style food in Utah. Oh, there were a few Utahns who attempted it, but Mack says he “wouldn’t call them very valiant efforts of what we eat in Hawaii.” Frankly, It just never tasted the same.
“I always told Kimo, ‘Brother, you and I cook a lot better,’” Mack said. “I just don’t know why it was so hard to cook like they do back home.”
The two men decided to try their hand at serving “local grindz,” as they call it in Hawaii — local, good food.
The Macks opened the first Mo’ Bettahs in 2008, on 500 South in Bountiful. Since then, they’ve added five more restaurants in Utah — Logan, Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Midvale, and Lehi. Ogden will be the seventh Mo’ Bettahs.
It’s been a long wait for Weber County fans of the chain.
“Our Ogden customers have been waiting a long time for this,” Mack said. “They’ve been coming in our Bountiful Mo’ Bettahs since Day 1, asking, ‘When are you coming up to Ogden?’ So we’re really excited to finally be coming to Ogden, because we know they’ve been patient.”
Mack said he and his brother have been looking for a space in Ogden for the last seven years, but every time they’ve tried to pull the trigger on a location, the property owners have pulled out on them.
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The Mo’ Bettahs eating experience features teriyaki chicken, teriyaki steak, kalua pork, and a breaded and deep-fried chicken katsu.
“Believe it or not, the teriyaki chicken is a chicken thigh,” Mack said. “So many people compliment our chicken; they say they thought it was breast meat.”
White rice, brown rice, macaroni salad and tossed salad round out the menu.
“It’s not the most healthiest of food, but it is good comfort food,” Mack admits.
Mo’ Bettahs used to offer shave ice, but they discontinued the Hawaiian treat about seven years ago. Mack says he hated removing it from the menu.
“People loved it so much, but the problem was the store would fill up with everybody getting shave ice,” he said. “Four people would buy one $3 shave ice and sit at a table eating it, so everybody else who was there for the food didn’t have place sit.”
Mack said Mo’ Bettahs hopes to open more restaurants — hopefully by this fall — in South Jordan, Pleasant Grove and Orem. The brothers are now partnering with Four Foods Group in American Fork, and he says the company has ambitious plans to have a dozen restaurants open by the end of the year.
Hours for the new Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style in Ogden will be 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.