A Curator’s Take on Mo’s Hut
OMCA’s current major exhibition Pacific Worlds is all about getting to know our Pacific Island neighbors right here in the Bay Area. One place to start is at one of the many great local Pacific Islander restaurants, so this summer we took a field trip to Mo’s Hut Samoan restaurant in Oakland.
Pacific Worlds Community Task Force member Ella Wolfgramm and her sister Malina joined OMCA Experience Developer Christine Lashaw and me for dinner at this cozy family-run takeout and sit-down restaurant in Fruitvale. The Moliga family has run a popular catering business for almost 30 years, with Mo’s Hut as a familiar fixture at Island festivals around the Bay Area and across the West. The family opened the restaurant space on Fruitvale Avenue last December, and “Mo” Moliga told us that the restaurant has become so popular that they are already looking for a larger space with more parking. As we talked, a constant stream of customers came in for takeout.
At a counter cleverly designed with tapa and a grass roof, the four of us ordered gigantic combination plates of Samoan and Hawaiian food. We settled into a little table under a flyer for Pacific Worlds (I swear we didn’t bring it with us).
The Mo’s Special plate features Samoan comfort food: huge pink slabs of corned beef with a soft edge of fat, called povi masima in Samoan (pulu masima in Tongan); green bananas, fa’i cooked in coconut milk; barbeque chicken; and an island fusion chop suey. The Hawaiian plate (pictured) includes short ribs and a delicious creamy macaroni salad with crab. Mo’s Hut often has off-menu items available; the day we visited there were pineapple half moon pies, with a flaky crust and a subtle, not-too-sweet pineapple filling. We chatted with Mo, discussed the exhibit, and demolished the food so quickly we barely got a chance to take pictures.
I enjoyed my visit to Mo’s Hut, and the chance to gain a little more insight into the culture and heritage of the Samoan community in the Bay Area through the amazing common language of food. In the Pacific Worlds exhibition, you too can explore a number of ways that Pacific Islanders in California connect to their cultural heritage, of course including food! The food section of the exhibit is about harvesting, preparing, and sharing food, and includes our collection of exquisite fishhooks from across the Pacific as well as poi pounders and feast bowls. The section also features a profile of a Chamoru chef from San Francisco, Shaun Naputi of Prubechu. Come check it out on your next trip to Oakland—and maybe make a visit to a local Pacific Islander restaurant a part of your day.
— Suzanne Fischer, associate curator of contemporary history and trends
If you go:
Mo’s Hut: 2676 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94601, (510) 328-1677. Open Tues–Fri, 10 am–7 pm; Sat, 8 am–7 pm