Utica is considered the birthplace of chicken riggies, which have now spread across central New York, with many restaurants making their own unique recipe. But who does the better riggies? This contest will try to find them.
More than 15 restaurants will compete April 30 at Rock Valley Brewing Co. in Little Falls for the first-ever Riggie Wars, a tournament-style competition to find the best riggies.
The first round will bring together businesses located in the Mohawk Valley that have a licensed kitchen. The tournament has been divided into four different divisions, which will each have three battles.
They include Yettys Pizza & Pasta in Herkimer, The Hub Eatery in Utica, The Tin Cup Tavern & Grille in Little Falls, Enzo’s Pizza and Ristorante in Poland or Primo Pizzeria/Cacciatore’s Restaurant & Banquet Hall and more.
The First Division covers the Mohawk Valley, including Herkimer, Oneida, Madison, and parts of Fulton, Otsego, and Chenango counties. Other divisions include Central New York with Onondaga and Oswego counties; the Finger Lakes with Cayuga, Seneca, Wayne and parts of Ontario and Yates counties; and finally, the North Country, which will feature restaurants in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
The 12 winners will go on to the final championship, which will take place in Utica, said Preston Moore, one of the event organizers.
Winners will be selected by blind voting based on five criteria: Appearance, Consistency, Taste, Aftertaste and “X-Factor”. The judges’ votes will be combined with the results of a sample of people and the higher combined total of the two will be the winner.
“The ultimate goal was to just put 315 foods on the map,” said Moore, a Herkimer County native who hosted the event with partner Mike Cassella.
“It’s the best food in the world,” he said. “It’s that home cooking you grew up with. It’s more than the taste of the food, it’s that nostalgia.”
Moore and Cassella also founded the Facebook group 315 Foodies in 2019 to share recipes and restaurants in the area. Currently, it has over 100,000 members.
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Jami Denault, owner of Jamo’s Restaurant and Bar in Herkimer, first noticed the Chicken Riggie contest on that same Facebook group when a customer asked if she was going to enter. His restaurant is now one of 15 businesses in the region that will compete in the first round of Riggie Wars.
Chicken riggies are one of Jamo’s most popular dishes, which are made with shredded chicken instead of large chunks. For the event, Denault said she would opt for the classic riggie recipe and cook them the morning of contest day so “they’re as fresh as possible.”
Denault said she’s excited to have more community events after the global pandemic, especially an event that will help boost small restaurants.
Skobby’s in Little Falls will bring a different take on chicken riggies. Owner Alex Lawrence said he was “busy” creating something to send people into “a taste utopia”.
Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at [email protected]
If you are going to
What: Riggie Wars
When: April 30, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; live music by Ashleigh DeCarr; 2-6 p.m., Riggie Wars 1; 6-8 p.m., live music from Tri-County Mill
The first round will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on April 30.
Or: Rock Valley Brewing Co., 56 W. Mill St., Little Falls.
Cost: $10 online at riggiewars.com, $13 at the door, and $8 for seniors and military.