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How Yo Mama’s Became a Downtown Dining Staple

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Yo Mama's co-owners Denise (left) and Crystal Peterson are mother and daughter team and business partners at Yo Mama's in downtown Birmingham. (City of Birmingham)
By Chanda Temple
birminghamal.gov

Once you’ve been in business for five years, you’d think there would be balloons, a cake and maybe even a DJ to help celebrate your years of success, right?

Not so for Yo Mama’s, the award-winning restaurant in downtown Birmingham. Instead of throwing a party to mark their five years in business this month, the mother-daughter team behind the popular eatery, donated their time on a recent Friday night to feed guests staying at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.

“We hope this meal brings a little sunshine to your Friday,’’ Yo Mama’s co-owner Crystal Peterson said as she joined her mother and business partner, Denise Peterson, in scooping up hot helpings of spaghetti and chicken Alfredo with sausage for parents and children. “It’s always good to give back. That’s why we are here.’’

Those on the receiving end were people like Pam Hallford from Montgomery, whose 15-year-old son, Josh, was in Birmingham to receive intensive physical therapy at Children’s Hospital. The Ronald McDonald House provides housing for families facing extended stays for their child’s medical care.

“To have these ladies take their time, especially on a Friday night, and give us a good meal, you can tell it’s from their heart and soul. This is a blessing,’’ Hallford said. “When you talk to them, you can tell they love what they do.’’

“And the fact that it’s called Yo Mama’s, it just warms your heart.’’

Denise, 62, and Crystal, 37, are definitely in the heart-warming business. If their food doesn’t convince you, their love for their customers and company will.

On any given weekday, it’s not unusual to see a line of customers stretched from the counter to the front door. Fans are there for the shrimp and grits, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, fried pork chops, greens, macaroni and cheese, red Tropical Splash punch and more. But the most in-demand dish is their chicken and waffles, which features homemade syrup, powdered sugar and guilty pleasure topping options such as peach cobbler or fresh fruit paired with homemade whipped cream. (They serve 50 to 60 chicken and waffle combos on a weekday and about 90 on the Saturdays they serve brunch.)

At Yo Mama’s, they put the customers, employees and community first as well as their faith.
“The formula these women have for a successful business and good food should be bottled,’’ Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “The way they have pursued their interest in running a restaurant and delivering quality products that have remained in demand for the last five years, deserves much praise.”

“I have a goal to make Birmingham a destination location for women-owned and minority-owned businesses by 2021. Yo Mama’s is a good example of what is possible for such companies in the Magic City,’’ Mayor Woodfin said.

After dreaming of running a restaurant for years, Denise finally saw it happen in 2014. They had a soft opening on Nov. 14 and an official opening on Nov. 17, 2014. While she cooked in the kitchen, Crystal ran the front counter. And with the help of other family members, the mother-daughter made the whole concept work.

“When we decided to open Yo Mama’s, we wanted to be the exception,’’ said Denise. “We did not want to have everything that everyone else had. We wanted people to experience a quality meal out and have something families could afford.’’

Crystal said they did a lot of research and talked to various businesses on what it took to run a business well before they opened their doors.

“There’s no secret in why we’ve been in business for five years,’’ Crystal said. “If you put your faith in God, He will lead you in the direction that you need to go.’’

Yo Mama’s is located at 2328 Second Ave. North. They are open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. They are open for Saturday brunch every second and last Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Their website is yomamasrestaurant.com.  The restaurant number is 205-957-6545.