A fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Hawaiian cuisine will open in Norman next month.
After 15 years driving buses in Oahu’s public transportation system, Brothers Kimo and Kalani Mack moved to the mainland and brought their cuisine along with them. They opened the first Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style in Bountiful, Utah, in 2008. They cooked, managed and sometimes even slept at the store.
One store turned into six over the next nine years, before being acquired by Savory Fund in 2017. The brand now has nearly 30 stores across the nation and plans to have 26 new locations by the end this year, including five in Oklahoma, according to restaurant news.
Kaleo Dipko, operator and training store general manager, said Mo Bettah’s Norman location at 2801 24th Ave. NW will hopefully open in mid June.
Dipko said the food is authentic to what Hawaii natives enjoy.
“We’re true to what we grew up on,” Dipko said. “If I invited you over to my house in Hawaii, this is what it tastes like. This is roughly what the menu would be and what the palette would be.”
The menu features the plate lunch, which generally consists of rice, macaroni salad and proteins like chicken, steak and pork. Plate lunches originated from the Japanese, Filipino locals who worked the sugar and pineapple plantations in the late 1800s.
Dipko said everything, including the macaroni salad, is made in-house every day.
Protein options include teriyaki chicken, Kalua pig, Pulehu chicken thigh, katsu breaded chicken, teriyaki steak and shrimp tempura.
Patrons can eat inside the Hawaii-themed lobby with paddles and other island decor or grab a plate to go in the drive thru.
Dipko said the foundation of the brand’s culture is the Aloha spirit. Employees have no catchy script to follow but are taught the value of an authentic approach.
“The secret sauce is the sense that it’s a genuine level of service,” Dipko said. “Some will say ‘aloha,’ and some won’t, but it’s going to be genuine to who they are and what their personalities are.”
By Jeff Elkins | Transcript Staff Writer May 15,2022