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A sign with a chef chasing a chicken in neon.
Brooks’ House of Bar-B-Q in the Catskills.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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A Food Crawl Through Mom-and-Pops of the Catskills

A handful of steadfast picks to eat your way through the area

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Extending from NYC’s exurbs 125 miles or so to the northwest, the Catskills are the city dweller’s recreational playground, cooler by 10 degrees in hot summers, and the site of dozens of sports destinations in the winter. Other seasons, they are a hiker’s and leaf-peeper’s paradise.

Food options have improved by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and nearly every town or hamlet has a flashy new hotel with a pricey restaurant attached. For the purposes of this guide, I’m focusing on the mom-and-pop restaurants that often get left behind in favor of what’s fashionable. Eating well still requires some calculation, since many restaurants are only open on weekends, and those weekday venues often serve only breakfast and lunch. Here is a chronicle of 10 great things I ate during a recent Catskills vacation, with some strategic advice thrown in.

Baguettes at Middle Brook Mill

This temple of heirloom grains, wholesome pancake mixes, and crunchy cookies also sells loaves of bread seven days a week in Jefferson, just over Mount Jefferson from Stamford. The place really comes alive when the sourdough baguettes ($6 each) fly from the oven Thursdays and Saturdays after 2 p.m. Get one while it’s still warm, and eat it with a stick of butter from the gas station across the street. 170 Main Street, at Highway 10, Jefferson

Two loaves of bread held up before a red door.
A pair of sourdough baguettes

Meat loaf panino from Blue Bee

This small-town cafe evolved from a bookstore 10 years ago on Delhi’s main drag, amazingly open seven days a week, only for breakfast and lunch. The interior is charming, with oak booths surmounted by stained glass panels. Besides baked goods, it specializes in meal-size salads and sandwiches, some featuring retro fillings, as seen in this warm meat loaf panino ($14 with one side). 114 Main Street, between Court and Division streets, Delhi

A pressed sandwich with a bowl of cole slaw in the background.
Egg salad and meat loaf are still stylish in Delhi.

Brunswick stew at High on the Hog BBQ

Located just north of Middleburgh in the Schoharie Valley, High on the Hog produces better barbecue than you’d expect: One of its signature items is Brunswick stew ($5), a specialty variously attributed to Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky. The recipe features a chunky tomato broth with beans and corn, flavored with barbecue leftovers. 174 Marjorie Lane, in the Valley Market shopping center, MIddleburgh

A bowl of red stew.
Brunswick stew is filled with vegetables and barbecued meats.

Beef brisket at Solinsky’s

There is little doubt that the best barbecue in the Catskills is found at Solinsky’s, a Stamford smokehouse hiding in plain sight that manages to open only two days a week (Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.), and doesn’t currently have a sign. The brisket ($30 per pound) is profoundly smoky and fatty; sliced thick, it makes a great sandwich on the crusty baguettes also for sale. Bacon, kielbasa, and other smoked meats are also available. 103 Main Street, between Churchill and Railroad avenues, Stamford

Thick slices of fatty meat blackened at the edges.
Still-warm smoked brisket is a regular offering of Solinsky’s

Breakfast burrito at Bread Alone Cafe

This cafe attached to the Bread Alone Bakery, ubiquitous at NYC farmers markets, has been growing steadily over the last dozen years, and turning into a gleaming solar-powered cafe with plenty of outdoor seating. It stands just south of Woodstock at the gateway to the Upper Catskills, and in addition to sandwiches and salads sells breakfasts all day, like this glorious breakfast burrito ($8) filled with sausage, scrambled eggs, black beans, avocado, and cotija cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla. 3962 Highway 28, near Desilva Road, Boiceville

A burrito cut in half to show avocado, egg, black beans, and sausage.
The breakfast burrito at Bread Alone Cafe.

Half chicken at Brooks’ House of BBQ

Located on the eastern edge of Oneonta, the foremost Catskills college town, Brooks’ provides chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork, and St. Louis-style pork ribs cooked over an enormous charcoal pit. Founded in 1961, it’s run by the fourth generation of the same family, and is recipient of a James Beard Award. The half chicken ($7.49) wasn’t very photogenic, but it sure was good. 5560 Highway 7, near Highway 47, Oneonta

White hot at Mama’s Boy

Mama’s Boy surprised Tannersville eight years ago when it opened its roadside hamburger stand and became an immediate hit among locals and passers-through with its combination of Shake Shack-style burgers, soft serve ice cream, and hot dogs, with plenty of outdoor seating under the trees at picnic tables. My favorite is the white hot Hoffman’s frank ($5) made with pork and veal and served with kraut — something like an elongated bratwurst. 6067 Main Street, at Highway 23C, Tannersville

A long white hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard.
Hoffman’s white hot at Mama’s Boy.

Local cheeseboard at Origins Cafe

Set amid parkland with seating in a greenhouse, the customer at this bucolic spot on the outskirts of Cooperstown — where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located — sits among profuse foliage. The food is obsessively locavoric and seasonal, and nothing better to start a meal with friends than the cheeseboard ($21), which includes seasonal fruit, toasts, nuts, taralli, and pickled ramps. 558 Beaver Meadow Road, near Apple Creek Road, Cooperstown

A profusion of flowers, fruit, nuts, and cheese.
The cheeseboard at Origins delights the eye.

Breakfast combo at Buck Hill Farm

This working farm just west of Jefferson is one of the area’s foremost purveyors of maple syrup, and they prove it every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a communal breakfast in the red barn. Choices run to pancakes served with maple syrup, egg omelets, biscuits and sausage gravy, maple granola, and other countrified items (a breakfast combo of pancakes, egg, and sausage runs $10.50). Kibitzing with neighbors is half the fun. 185 Fuller Road, at Buck Hill Road, Jefferson

Pancakes, sausage, and one egg.
A breakfast combo is ready to be smothered in maple syrup.

RPG at Danny’s

Danny’s is an ancient roadside inn that dates to 1825. For 90 of those years, it has also been a restaurant popular with visitors to the Lower Catskills. It offers a specialty that dates back to the Dirty Dancing era: a roast pork sandwich ($12) on Italian garlic bread with sticky sweet duck sauce. 178 Kingston Avenue, at Sullivan Street, Wurtsboro

A sandwich with thin slices of pork on a hero with fries crowing the left side.
The fabled RPG (roast pork and garlic bread) sandwich at Danny’s.

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