The Riverside Café, a little place in Vero Beach, Fla., where Jake Owen honed his craft, still boasts about the country star's loyalty.
They serve a $13.99 fresh fish sandwich which is available blackened, grilled or fried, and the menu says, "Jake Owen orders this every time he comes in. It's his favorite thing on the menu!"
And those bragging rights are completely legit. I know because Owen even talks about the sandwich in a new behind-the-scenes video on his website.
"I dropped out of college with a semester left of school basically and told my parents I was gonna go off and try to make it playing guitar and singing and writing my songs," Owen said. "And where I got the confidence to do that was playing guitar in my hometown at this place called the Riverside Café for 50 or 60 bucks a night and a grilled mahi sandwich," Owen said.
Fast forward a little more than 10 years, and now Owen is pretty much playing for what could be a lifetime of grilled mahi sandwiches. He is getting ready to kick off a headlining tour on May 15 in West Virginia, and he wants these big shows to have the same vibe as those little shows in Florida.
"When we were in talks about what I wanted the set to look like, I said, 'I want to feel like I'm back at Riverside Café. I want the nautical rope and I want the wood pilings from the boat docks out back. I want to feel like that. I want everyone else that's here to feel that," he says.
"I never thought I'd go from being a one-man show, packing my own stuff up in my truck, to coming up on a riser seeing the place sold out," Owen adds. He says he's the same kid that played on a barstool who just wanted to do what Kenny Chesney was doing.
"But you gotta start somewhere. I guess that's why I'm being emotional ... because I know where I've come from," he says, before toasting his band and saying, "This is cheers to where we're going."