Four months have passed since the restaurant, Mouth of the South, in the Florence neighborhood caught fire and was deemed a total loss. The popular restaurant was an anchor in the revived area in Omaha.
There's still a fence outside from keeping the public from getting close to the building but owner Ryan Ernst said he’s wanting to rebuild the popular restaurant.
Ernst walked into the charred restaurant on Thursday, “Definitely weird seeing it like this.”
The roof is burnt to a crisp, most of it gone, holes are in the floor and wires are still hanging down.
Mouth of the South was the place to go to eat authentic southern cuisine but on April 26th a fire torched this dream for Ernst apart, “It still doesn't seem real at all, that it could happen".
According to the Omaha Fire Department the smoker caused the blaze. April 26th is a day Ernst will never forget. He was on vacation visiting his sister in Florida and got that terrible phone call.
“So I answer the phone and I couldn't believe it, it was unbelievable,” said Ernst.
He saw his restaurant burning on his computer over a thousand miles away but said it’s probably best he wasn't in Omaha when the fire happened.
“I don't think I could have stood out there and watched it. I really don't think I could have done it. I was beaten up enough just seeing what I could see,” said Ernst.
But now four months have passed, Ernst said it's time to rebuild this dream.
“It’s going to be a lot better than what it was.”
Ernst wants to add more seating, a bigger kitchen and a rooftop lounge.
It's this rebuild that has other Florence restaurants excited like Enzo's Italian right across the street, “Rooting for him and can't wait for him to reopen,” said owner Enzo Zurlo.
While Mouth of the South is currently just a shell of what it used to be, Ernst believes this fire is actually a blessing to create a better restaurant, “We get the ability to start over and be able to build it from the beginning and build what we want, make it a little more enjoyable”.
Ernst doesn’t have a definite timeline on when the restaurant will be completed, although he hopes to be open in time for Florence Days next May.
Mouth of the South will be serving sample sizes of food at Taste of Florence on September 10th.