Ray Brothers BBQ Brings Flavorful Eats to the Hall of Presidents


This semester’s limited interaction has led to some changes around campus that may be less than ideal. However, one shining, bright spot has been the presence of local food vendors on campus. Fojo Bean, Royal India Grill and The Colgate Inn have all begun serving food in unique spots on campus this semester, in order to better serve students while minimizing the number of students eating downtown.

The final addition to our hill has been Ray Brothers BBQ, the local smokehouse in Bouckville, who in the spring were named as having the best ribs in New York. While other restaurants have used food trucks and pop-up shops up the hill, Ray Brothers have instead taken over the Hall of Presidents (HOP), turning it into what brother and owner Tucker Ray calls “a barbeque dining hall.”

The idea began in late June, when Colgate sent out a document to local businesses asking them to bid to be able to serve food on campus during the fall semester. While the focus was clearly on food trucks and smaller pop-ups, Tucker pitched the idea of taking over a space on campus. With the restaurant closed for everything but takeout, Colgate students leaving early in the spring and all pre-scheduled large events and concerts canceled, the restaurant’s business is unfortunately down 60%. Thus, setting up the dining area in the HOP would at least give the restaurant a presence on campus for the fall.

“It’s hard figuring out how to be a moral business owner,” Ray said. The pandemic initially caused him to reduce his staff from 40 to ten, which he has slowly been able to build back up to 30. It hasn’t all been bad, though.

“You can tell when people respect what you do,” Ray said of the continued interest in the restaurant; he estimates 30-40 restaurants in a 20-mile radius have permanently shuttered because of the pandemic. Still, like any restaurant, Ray Brothers have continued to struggle through the pandemic. For the restaurant, the HOP location represents a chance to help ease the burden of the pandemic.

In many ways, the set up at the HOP is in fact better for the customer than the restaurant was pre-pandemic, when demand was so high most nights that the wait time exceeded an hour. At the HOP, customers are in and out in under five minutes as orders are prepared immediately and the line moves quickly. The restaurant has also worked to incorporate food that you wouldn’t typically see on their menu, including salads and daily grain bowls to allow students who don’t like barbecue to dine at the HOP with their friends who do. Furthermore, like all on campus eateries, Flex Dollars are now accepted, a feature not available at the restaurant.

The food is smoked every morning and then transported in holding coolers over to campus where it is served. As soon as an order is placed, the staff prepares and packages it, oftentimes allowing food to appear before guests prior to their payment being completed. Safety is clearly of utmost importance, as evidenced by the protective windows between employees and customers at the order stations and contactless payment. Food is also delivered in a contactless manner, as it is brought out to a designated table and picked up there by students. As for the food itself, despite having been transported, I can vouch that it remains as good as ever. The ribs still pull right off the bone with a massive smoke ring, and the pulled pork is still tender and flavorful. Also, Nachos are available every Wednesday night. Come down to the HOP to support our local businesses, right from campus.