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The pulau chicken was grilled to perfection at Mo’ Bettahs. PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES
Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food, 3020 E Broad Dr, Ste 116, Mansfield. 682-477-3512. 10:30am-10pm Mon-Sat.

Hawaiian cuisine has made some inroads into the food scene in the 817 over the last couple of years. Arlington’s sublime Ahi Poke Bowl survived COVID and has been joined by Halo Hawaiian BBQ and several others. But these are restaurants specializing in the fresh, sushi-style poke, with mounds of delicate raw seafood augmented by soy, sesame, and some green onions.

If you’re expecting that kind of lunch, the new Mo’ Bettahs in Mansfield may disappoint you. Here, you’ll find the islands’ working-class soul food courtesy of brothers Kimo and Kilani Mack from Oahu –– kalua pork, barbecued chicken, and teriyaki steak, accompanied by mounds of rice and macaroni salad. The plate lunch (like our Southern meat and two sides) is part of foodways as diverse as the people who settled the islands.

When my family and I visited the Big Island in 2020, we ate at Ken’s House of Pancakes on the recommendation of a local foodie. It’s the quintessential Hawaiian-local diner. Everything comes served with twice as much rice as a normal person could eat, augmented mostly with beef, pork, or Spam. Eggs Benedict came on rice, not English muffins. Macaroni salad accompanied the rice because apparently you can never have too many carbs in Hawaii. The demand for rice came from the Chinese who arrived on the islands as the first guest workers. They wanted rice as the preferred carb over traditional poi. Mo’ Bettahs also offers brown rice, although I didn’t see anyone taking them up on that.

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Kalua pork is a reference to how the meat is cooked (covered in damp palm fronds, slow-roasted in a pit, ideally, for hours). The version at Mo’ Bettahs was excellent. The odds that there’s a pit with natural coals dug in the back of busy Broad Street in Mansfield are small, but the salty, smoky pulled pork tasted like it spent hours in a smoker.

Mo’ Bettahs’ kalua pork and mac salad were standouts.
PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

For the second meat on the regular two-meat plate, the teriyaki beef wasn’t as stellar. A marinade heavy on the sweet (perhaps pineapple) and salty teriyaki made the meat taste terrific, but the texture was a little chewy.

The sides include white macaroni salad and white or brown rice. There was nothing wrong with the rice, but it wasn’t spectacular. Maybe more of that good teriyaki drizzle would have helped.

The main flavor of Hawaiian macaroni salad is mayo, with a little tang from some onion, and there were a few carrot shreds here. If you’re looking for chunks of peppers, celery, perhaps some Cajun spice, or anything that imparts more flavor to well-cooked elbow mac, you’ll have to look at another cuisine style. Still, Mo’ Bettahs’ mac salad was absolutely delicious. It was comforting and tasty and didn’t interfere with the flavor of the heavily smoked meats.

If you have a smaller appetite, the keiko (kid’s) meal comes with one meat and side. The pulehu chicken (chicken thighs grilled with garlic, pepper, and salt) wasn’t as brackish as the other choices of meats, and the boneless cuts were a little unevenly sliced yet also delightfully savory.

The red beans don’t affect the spice much in Mo’ Bettahs’ chili.
PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

The Hawaiian-style chili (available “for a short time,” according to the menu) is made with ground beef, sausage (a nod to the islands’ Portuguese immigrants), and a lot of spice. The version here was pleasantly spicy by Texas standards, with a ground beef and tomato gravy augmented by some larger, chunkier meat. Warning: The chili has red beans. This looks to be traditional in most of the recipes I glanced at — the warm spices and latent heat of the dish weren’t affected by the beans at all. In fact, some of the rice was appreciated to balance the fiery backlash.

Everything at Mo’ Bettahs comes packed to-go, even if you want to grab a seat in the brightly lit space. The food is served assembly-style, like Chipotle, and like that Southwest chain, much of the food is made in-house. You can augment your meal with a can of Hawaiian Sun fruit-flavored beverage — the stuff comes right from the islands and is the island equivalent of those Jarritos sodas.

If you have a chance to go to Ken’s in Hilo and eat like the locals, do it. Until then, this brightly neon-lit chain (weirdly, most of the locations are in the Midwest and Utah) will serve. The décor includes traditional canoe paddles and surfboards that, according to the website, are hand-made and were used on one of the Hawaiian islands before making their way to decorate a brightly lit restaurant on the mainland.

These boards allegedly saw the ocean before becoming landlocked in good ol’ Mansfield.
PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

 

Mo Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food
Regular plate $13.59
Keiku (kid’s) meal $5.59
Hawaiian chili (side) $4.35

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