We’ve all heard it said that anything worth doing, is worth doing right. So, what’s the right way to open a successful restaurant in an area overflowing with Texas pride in its vast assortment of fine food? For Chef Ara Malekian, whose HARLEM ROAD TEXAS BBQ has been open for about 6 weeks, the right answer was to begin promoting his restaurant long before the doors ever opened. Chef Ara said,
“I had about 2 years to build the buzz and did so by hosting popup events, attending barbecue festivals, and catering private dinners.”
From the moment you arrive at his restaurant, located off of Harlem Road near Grand Parkway, you can smell the smoky goodness. And ever since his doors did open, it was clear from all the social media chatter, and local foodie enthusiasm that Fort Bend had itself another “go-to” destination on its food landscape. Chef Ara’s business strategy to develop a slow burning buzz by letting his smoking techniques and mouth-watering barbecue speak for itself, proved to be the way to go.
Photo credit: Sas
Ara Malekian, attended boarding school in Switzerland as a child, and found at an early age that he had a true passion, a love for cooking.
“I grew up by my grandmother’s side in the kitchen, watching her pour so much of her heart into every meal,”
he said. Malekian used his summers in Switzerland to further develop his interest, and at the age of 12 was already apprenticing under a French chef. Eventually, Chef Ara’s cooking landed him on the radar of a true icon in the culinary world, Wolfgang Puck, who became such a believer in Chef Ara that he placed him in charge of overseeing about 80 of his restaurants!
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Ara Malekian, to learn what could possibly compel an internationally trained and respected chef, who had managed dozens of kitchens at one time, to come and open his own intimate place, and to specialize not just in barbecue, but Texas BBQ? It turns out that the chef had actually tried Texas BBQ over 2 decades ago, and really, really liked it. 7 years later, mainly to be closer to family, Ara moved to Texas, and it wasn’t long before his appreciation for our BBQ, led him to famous landmarks like Mueller BBQ and Franklin BBQ, both up in the Austin area. Fortunately for those of us in Fort Bend, we can now enjoy all of the slowly smoked barbecued meats that Chef Malekian produces, now that Harlem Road Texas BBQ opened in late January.
Be advised though that this hot spot is closed on Monday & Tuesday. Wednesday through Friday, they open at 3pm until it’s all gone. On weekends, Harlem Road Texas BBQ opens at 11am. And you better believe that all of the dividends from Ara’s two year efforts of creating a buzz for his business has truly paid off. It’s s good idea to get there on the early side too! I ventured in on a Saturday, around 2:45pm. While they’d only been open about 3 1/2 hours, they were already sold out of pork ribs, homemade sausage, and chicken. Thankfully I did get to try his melt in your mouth, fork tender brisket and it was pure and total barbecue bliss! Chef Ara has his own standards and techniques that he’s developed over the years. He uses the best ingredients, like getting his beef brisket from 44Farms. The smokers are the PitMaker BBQ pit, the consensus choice for serious competition cooks. And when it comes to that delectable beef brisket, Chef Ara doesn’t over complicate things, but rather keeps it simple choosing to limit the seasoning to sea salt and black pepper. After generously applying this seasoning mix, he lets it sit refrigerated for 6 hours, insuring a much better bark, the crust of the brisket. Chef Ara says,
“With barbecue, it’s all about patience”.
When asked by countless inquisitors, how long he smokes his brisket, his response, “Till it’s done!”
Another signature standard for Chef Ara comes with his decision to use retired French oak, red wine barrels for the smoking of all his meat selections. He explains,
“The red wine gives the meat a uniquely sweeter taste, and amazingly enough no heartburn!”
These are the kind of tips and nuances that guarantee you’ll definitely find a favorite thing you love when you head out to Harlem Road Texas BBQ. It might be the beef brisket, or the pork ribs, or his cole slaw which is vinegar based with a hint of honey. There’s even a chance that if you don’t get totally full with the smoked barbecue and side dishes, you may find a new favorite dessert such as his butterscotch chocolate chip cookie, or the chocolate bread pudding made with croissants and a hint of Armenian coffee.
I encourage anyone who enjoys a humble success story, smoked barbecue cooked low and slow, and food that just puts a smile on your face, to go experience these treats for yourself. Harlem Road Texas BBQ is in Fort Bend, near Harlem Road and Grand Parkway, mere minutes away from the rapidly growing Aliana Market Center.
Remember, especially since it’s only been open for a short time, to get their early so you don’t miss out on something yummy. Because while Chef Ara Malekian did utilize a 2-year business strategy to build a slow burning buzz for his restaurant, and he is a true pit master who adheres to the slow and low philosophy of smoking, one consistent fast thing occurring so far, is how fast the food is going out the door.
Harlem Rd. BBQ
9823 Harlem Road
Richmond, TX 77407
Monday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Friday: 3pm – Until Sold Out
Saturday – Sunday: 11am – Until Sold Out
Story by Vince Santos
Written by Vince Santos – Read his bio