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Hidden History: Moses Smith has kept ‘Unkl Moe's' running for nearly two decades

It is the longest running black-owned restaurant in Rochester

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) - Every Monday, News 8 will introduce you to Hidden History: People and places significant to local black history that you might not have heard of. We begin with a barbeque joint called Unkl Moe's -- Rochester's longest black-owned restaurant.

“It is a challenge,” says Moses Smith. “I'm going to tell you right now."

Moses Smith, known as “Unkl Moe,” and his wife Bernice are the owners. They opened the business back in 2001. Since then, this place has drawn customers from all over like comedian Kat Williams, former Senator Bill Paterson and gospel singers BeBe & CeCe Winans to name a few.

“We're far-reaching,” says Smith. “In fact, even out of state, in Syracuse, Buffalo, we got people who come in to eat."

Located on Rochester's west side, from the outside of the restaurant, it may not seem like much a first. But once you walk inside, you'll immediately start to understand what makes this place so special.

“Everything is authentic here,” Smith explains. “We peel our yam... Everything is done original and we try to keep that."

In fact, the restaurant has a longer history than its official opening. Smith says before they purchased a building for the restaurant, he had a side business selling food. "I had a hobby where I had fabricated a grill and I would ride around the city in different places and setup a tent and sell food until the health department came by and said you can't do this,” said Smith.

Smith and his wife say consistency is the name of the game. Since then, their food has remained the same, catering to barbeque lovers. The food is made from scratch: From succulent ribs to tasty fried chicken, sweet corn bread, savory collard greens, delicious mac and cheese and, to top it all off, their famous sweet potato pie.

“We realize that there are 20 places you can be eating and when you come here we want to make sure you get your money's worth and make sure you enjoy it,” Smith tells us.

When you come here, it's an experience. The waitresses might call you “honey” when taking your order and you may even be able to catch snippets of conversation and laughter from the kitchen. The restaurant has been compared to a well-worn diner from the 70s. Lots of wood grain on the walls and tables, giving many a "neighborhood joint vibe" than a restaurant. As successful as this place has been, Unkl Moe says it's not easy maintaining it.

He says, "It kind of takes your life. You don't have time to do a lot. Restaurants are very, very demanding."

Places like Unkl Moe’s are becoming hard to find especially in a growing Rochester. When asked what does the future hold for the place, Unkl Moe tells me he's unsure. He wants to keep the place running for as long as he can. But for now, he and his wife are just taking it day-by-day.


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