Fire’s out and meals are on at Moma’s

Owners Kenny Geiger and Danny Banton in front of Moma's B-B-Q.
A major fire couldn’t destroy the business drive of Kenny Geiger, at left, and Danny Banton. The co-owners of Moma’s B-B-Q reopened on Dec. 3.

Five months after a kitchen fire gutted the building, Moma’s B-B-Q is once again setting out hot-link sausage omelets and jumbo barbecue sandwiches for hungry crowds. The popular Bartlett restaurant reopened on Dec. 3.

An early morning grease fire on July 3 raced from the deep fryer throughout Moma’s. Smoke and fire destroyed everything from the windows up, said Danny Banton, one of the owners. They salvaged booths and tables, and firefighters grabbed irreplaceable photos and a few framed newspaper clippings from the smoked and dripping walls. The rest was a near-total loss, said co-owner Kenny Geiger.

“The fire took the whole roof off,” he said. “There was nothing here but a slab.”

Among the rubble was a cooler full of pork shoulders for the next day’s July 4 festivities. The owners were hopeful until the fire cooled and they opened the cooler, when all they saw was soaked, smoked, and ruined pork. Geiger said they were up notifying customers until 9 p.m. that night.

Throughout the cleanup and renovations, both men were touched by how many friends and customers kept their spirits up. “It’s amazing how many people came by, every day,” Geiger said.

Banton said friendly faces greeted him and asked about repairs at the restaurant wherever he went. “I’d go to the grocery store and be 45 minutes getting a loaf of bread.”

Some of their regulars even asked about a bank fund for donations. Banton and Geiger thanked them but said insurance would take care of it all, including paying their two employees during the renovations and repairing the next-door laundry.  The laundry will not be re-opened and is available for leasing.

Throughout it all, both men said they never considered closing Moma’s doors for good. The restaurant opened in November 1982, and they say they know 80 percent of the people who enter – including who wants their bacon crispy and which ones want their eggs over easy.

“We’ve been here a long time,” Geiger said. “We’re like a little institution here in Bartlett and in Memphis.”

Today, Moma’s B-B-Q is bright and clean with new flooring, silvery appliances, freshly painted gray bricks on the lower walls, and corrugated metal covering the half-walls between dining and kitchen areas. A large “We’re Back!” sign donated and autographed by friends at the Bank of Bartlett hangs in the front window, with orange flames framing the text.

New hours are among Moma’s changes with the reopening. The restaurant is now closed on Mondays as well as Sundays. Current operating hours are 6 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For fans, the good news is that the menu remains mostly unchanged except for some new additions. Customers can still get bacon baked potato salad, cheese fries, and barbecue dinner plates, as well as the new West Frayser Omelet (Spam, onions, and tomatoes).

Geiger smiled and said, “You have a good thing for 30 years, you don’t mess with it.”