Rich and Karen Watkins have made their jackpot to share and to go at the newly opened Jackpot Richie’s Chicken BBQ on Route 96 in Owego. Open since Memorial Day, Richie’s has been serving the couple’s favorite foods out of the completely renovated produce stand, which now mimics a backyard barbecue in both food and ambience.
Rich worked with food for years, he said. Between his part-time catering gig and other food service events, “Food has always been second nature,” Rich stated, particularly chicken, which he only serves the way he’d want to eat it. He says that Richie’s is the only barbecue joint in Owego that only serves two-day marinated chicken.
He formed his restaurant by observing the things that he didn’t like about the barbecue places he would visit. Whether it is decorations, logistics, or the food itself.
He added, “Having doing food preparation for years, you know if something is scratch versus container, can, tub, whatever. We do everything here. Everything is from scratch.”
No cutting corners, Rich emphasized while going on about their homemade coleslaw. He grates the fresh cabbage and vegetables himself and mixes a slurry of horseradish and vinegar into the slaw sauce for a cool, tangy slaw to cleanse the palate. This kind of care and detail goes into everything Jackpot Chicken Richie’s turns out.
Don’t even get him started on the strawberry spinach salad with the poppy seed dressing. After wrestling the recipe out of his previous coworker and friend, Rich is excited to serve the sweet, refreshing, and mouth-watering dressing to his customers.
“I want to serve the food that I want to eat,” Rich said. From the way he cooks the pork, to the chicken and the beans, everything has his stamp of approval. Sometimes, he even needs to convince the wary on his food combinations like the American cheese and banana peppers on a pulled pork sandwich, which he swears by. And so do the customers once they try it.
The special care he puts into the food may be a labor of love, he says, but it’s what he wants to eat. And on that point, he refuses to compromise.
“Change it up, but keep it simple,” he said. He wants people to come back for the barbecue but be able to experience something different.
Hailing from Owego, Rich and his wife are happy to be serving their community. Rich said he loves greeting people by name and serving up home cooking for them to enjoy.
And word has spread. As Rich stated, “word of mouth and in the mouth” is the best kind of advertising for their business. As customers are enjoying his food on the patio, he makes sure to quality check everyone’s food and experience, even offering special tastings for people to try for free.
Karen and Rich have made plenty of improvements to the property that was left on its own for five years before purchasing. They remodeled the overgrown produce stand and fitted it with a fully functioning and inspected kitchen and renovated the outdoor area with shade and patio furniture and other seating for a backyard dining experience. Coming up, the couple plans to make more use of the grounds, like adding a playground.
Until then, Richie’s is constantly improving and only serving food that they would be happy to eat. Stop by Jackpot Richie’s Chicken BBQ Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 16 State Route 96 in Owego.