Harlon’s BBQ at IAH (Houston Intercontinental Airport)

When I’m on a layover between flights, I have bad habits. I apply makeup in public. I put my feet on the airport chairs opposite me. And I routinely try airport restaurants that disappoint me in an effort to get some indigenous flavor in the terminal.

Harlon’s BBQ is one of the few eateries in Houston’s Intercontinental Airport (Terminal B) that is not a chain restaurant. Though I love a Chili’s or some McNuggets as much as you do, I just couldn’t make myself go there when I was in Texas, the BBQ brisket capital of the world.

I walked up to the counter, where hot links and a slab of juicy looking brisket waited, placed my order, and was served quickly and courteously. The sandwich and coleslaw¬†are a little pricey at $10, but as far as airport pricing goes, it isn’t insane.

BBQ Brisket Sandwich

I want to like this. Nay, I want to LOVE it. I have heard all my life how great Texas brisket is, and as a brisket lover from way back, I was sure this would be up my alley.

It wasn’t.

The beef here is stringy and tough, with fat that is neither soft and melty nor crisp and rendered. It is just sort of flabby and crunches oddly between the teeth. The beef itself is not tender and falling apart, as brisket should be, and tastes steamed rather than smoked. The bread is far too cottony and substantial, and it is dry rather than being laden with delicious beefy juices. The bbq sauce is the sandwich’s sole redeeming point – piquant, sweet, and tangy.


This is some excellent coleslaw – crunchy, cooling and pleasantly dressed in mayo without being doused in it. Adding some to the beef made the sandwich slightly better, but it shouldn’t be up to coleslaw to do that.

I wanted to love Harlon’s. I still want to – it is Texan BBQ in Texas, for crying out loud! But I can’t in all good faith recommend this eatery. Sad to say, you would be better off eating a Big Mac, maybe with a side of Harlon’s great coleslaw.

And I am still awaiting my first euphoric Texan brisket.