At 76 Main St., in the parking lot of the American Legion, there’s a stand where you can find true-to-the-craft barbecued chicken and ribs, with sides like beans and mac & cheese. The chicken is some of the juiciest BBQ chicken you’ll ever have and the ribs are delightful and smoky.
Steven Shaffer, known as Pepe by his customers, was born just outside of Binghamton in Windsor, NY and has lived in this area for over 30 years. From 1999 to 2013, Pepe’s BBQ served residents and Binghamton students alike at various locations in Downtown Binghamton, including Main Street, Clinton Street and Washington Street. He was a local celebrity, adored by the students and his establishment was the go-to spot after long nights at parties or bars for his cheap slices of pizza and meatball subs. The kids loved him and he even catered for parties for Greek life organizations and athletic teams.
Currently operating through a stand, Pepe explained that his barbecue venture is open, “whenever the sky is blue.” He gets up at 8 a.m. every day and goes shopping for the day’s food. Arriving at 76 Main S. around 9 a.m., he sets up in less than an hour and likes to have the chicken and ribs ready by 11:30 a.m. for service. When Pepe’s stand is up and running, he closes around 6:30 p.m. or whenever his food sells out. Luckily enough, his celebrity status has maintained without a brick-and-mortar location. Pepe still sees students on the streets and they are quick to say hello to him.
Since his last location closed in 2013, Pepe has been operating outside. With the COVID-19 pandemic, an outside location seems to be very serendipitous.
“I love being outside anyway, much safer than indoors,” Pepe said. “People appreciate it more.”
In uncertain and uncomfortable times, having a familiar face in Pepe dishing out authentic barbecue plates outside is indescribably comfortable while being very convenient. I recall the time that I brought my roommate to try the food, and he tossed in another piece of chicken with my roommate’s order of ribs at no extra cost. That’s the kind of guy Pepe is. He loves his customers and even better, his customers, both the students and residents of Binghamton, love Pepe too.
If you have some cash and a hankering for comforting, delicious barbecued food, taking a trip to 76 Main St. on a sunny day will cure every need. The food is delicious, made with love and with Pepe behind the chicken and ribs, it’s sure to be one of your new favorite spots in the entire city.