Just a short drive west of SUNY Cobleskill sits the popular Brooks House of BBQ in Oneonta, which began as a chicken farm around the same time the college was founded. Today, the third generation of the family runs the successful business, led by the founder’s grandson, Ryan Brooks. Ryan is a member of the SUNY Cobleskill Foundation and has also served on the SUNY Cobleskill Advisory Committee. Ryan and the Brooks family have been very generous with supporting scholarships and campus initiatives.
This spring, Ryan Brooks and Brooks BBQ received the prestigious James Beard “America’s Classics” Award. The America’s Classics Award is given to five restaurants that have timeless appeal and are cherished for quality food that reflects the character of their community. Brooks BBQ was celebrated at the 26th annual James Beard Foundation Awards, on Monday, May 2, 2016, at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“James Beard would have loved these restaurants; they represent how America eats,” says Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “Each has played a role in bringing their communities together, representing the heart and soul of our national culinary landscape—we’re proud to honor them as classics!”
Brooks began in 1912, when John McClelland and his wife founded a chicken farm in upstate New York. A catering business followed, then a drive-in, then, in 1961, Brooks BBQ. Their grandson is at the helm today. The rust-and-toffee interior features rooster-print wallpaper, a scalloped lunch counter, and state-themed paper placemats that detail the entirety of the “Brooks’ BBQ Campus.” The complex includes a banquet center, gift store, children’s park, picnic area, and a sauce bottling plant. Cooked on a 38-foot indoor charcoal pit, the barbecue chicken emerges with blistered skin and backyard flavor that goes bone-deep. A spiced apple ring, dyed deep garnet, tops each bird. Set on a backroad that cuts into the Catskills, Brooks is a memory-making place for families driving to and from the mountains.
SUNY Cobleskill congratulates the Brooks family and thanks Ryan for his dedication to the Foundation Board.