Brooks Family BBQ — the Last Vestige of Harlon Brooks's Barbecue Empire — Is Closed

Is the last vestige of the Harlons' barbecue empire gone for good?
Is the last vestige of the Harlons' barbecue empire gone for good?
Photo by Troy Fields

Thanks to a reader tip, we learned that Brooks Family BBQ at 3602 Scott has closed. (This is not to be confused with Brooks’ Place in Cypress. The two companies are not related.) The reader emailed the Houston Press this afternoon to report that he had purchased some discount vouchers from Groupon for Brooks Family BBQ. He received an email today from Groupon saying Brooks Family would no longer be able to honor the vouchers.

Further digging led to the discovery that the restaurant is closed. The Brooks Family BBQ Facebook page says “Permanently closed,” and the phone number is out of service.

The restaurant was founded by siblings Marlon and Candace Brooks, the children of Harlon and Alfreddie Brooks of Harlon’s Bar-B-Que fame.

We hope this isn't the last we see of the Brooks family name.
We hope this isn't the last we see of the Brooks family name.
Photo by Troy Fields

When Kaitlin Steinberg, the restaurant critic for the Houston Press at the time, reviewed Brooks Family BBQ, she noted that at one point there had been 24 Harlon’s Bar-B-Que restaurants in Texas and surrounding states. Those are long gone, and it looks as if the same can be said for this last vestige. Harlon’s was founded in Houston in 1977 and a company history is still available on its website.

Here's an excerpt from Steinberg's review that explains more of how it came to be that the family-owned barbecue empire was reduced to a single restaurant: 

Marlon [Brooks] explained that the business went through some tough times in the past several years, eventually going bankrupt. There are no longer any Harlon's Bar-B-Que restaurants or catering businesses.

Barbecue is in the Brooks family's blood, though. After Harlon's Bar-B-Que closed up shop, it wasn't long before Marlon got the urge to open another place, this one with a different name and some new recipes. Last December, just two days after Christmas, Marlon and his wife, Ros (along with help from the entire Brooks brood, including Harlon), opened Brooks Family BBQ on Scott Street using the knowledge that he and his family had gained over years in the business. It's a fledgling restaurant, still relying heavily on catering but gaining popularity among the students at the University of Houston right across the street, and even a few folks who make the trek from downtown for a quick lunch.

Once business picks up and the restaurant becomes more self-sufficient, Marlon says, he's hoping to bring back the wholesale shop that once put the Brooks name in grocery stores all over the city. But he knows that will take time, and he's willing to wait.

We’ve sent an email to Candace Brooks to see if we can obtain more details on the closing and whether there are any plans to open elsewhere in the future. We’ll update this story if we receive a response. 

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