The latest Wichita food trucker to decide it’s time to add a brick-and-mortar restaurant to his collection is Shawn Gordon, the owner of the mobile Hawaiian barbecue truck Mo’s Hut.
Gordon, a Hawaii native and a trained chef, plans to open a stationary Mo’s Hut in the middle of next month in the space at 2800 E. Central that was recently vacated after NFL star Kamerion Wimbley decided to close Wings & Things and turn it into a food truck.
The new restaurant will include a massive saltwater aquarium stocked with a stingray, eels and more.
“When they come inside, the one big thing I want is that people really feel like they’ve visited what we call ‘The Aloha State,’” said Gordon, who is of Polynesian and Samoan descent and who lived in Honolulu half his life. “The place is going to be filled with love. It’s going to be a place where you feel like, ‘Man, I just walked out of here with a little taste of Hawaii.’”
The restaurant, which also will be called Mo’s Hut, will feature an expanded menu of the favorites that truck customers have come to love, Gordon said, but the stars of his menu will be his “big three” meats that are in the most demand on the truck: teriyaki beef, Korean short ribs and barbecue chicken.
“Wichita says they love those three things,” he said. “When we’re in our food truck, we always make sure we keep those things.”
He’ll also serve things like a Hawaiian burger, kimchi fried rice, Hawaiian burritos, and loco moco, which he calls “one of the most spectacular comfort foods in Hawaii.”
Gordon will also offer a low-calorie Hula Menu, “for people who want to keep their Hula bodies.”
He’ll keep his truck, which he says has been more successful than he could have hoped for in its first year in business. He’ll take it to events and show up in “surprise locations” around town.
Gordon decided to add a restaurant, he said, because the truck couldn’t keep up with the demand anymore.
“We couldn’t be everywhere,” he said. “The business is just taking off, and the food truck has done spectacular. It’s surpassed anything we could have anticipated for the first year. This is just a very natural step. Everybody’s been asking. Everybody’s been wanting.”
Gordon, who trained as a chef in San Francisco and operated a Hawaiian restaurant there called Huli Huli, moved to Wichita to be part of the Church on the Street project. He works as the church’s project manager but wanted to donate his time, he said. To make a living, he decided to open a food truck serving the food he missed from his home state.
He’ll run the new restaurant with the help of his wife, his older kids and his cousin. Customers will order at the counter and have their food delivered to them.
Gordon says he’s been impressed by Wichita and the degree to which locals support food trucks and small businesses in general. He also can’t believe how easy it is to work through the red tape to open a food business in Wichita, especially compared to San Francisco, where it could take up to two years to get a new restaurant going.
“I’m telling you, this is a special kind of community,” he said.
I’ll let you know when Mo’s Hut is ready to open.