Crazy for Crawfish

Houston's 10 best mudbug joints.

Top 5

Erin Go Beef
5 corned beef dishes to try for St. Patrick's Day.

Molly Dunn

The barbecue that won Ronnie Killen first place at the 2013 Best Bites competition at the Rodeo will also be served at his pop-up dinners.
Katharine Shilcutt
The barbecue that won Ronnie Killen first place at the 2013 Best Bites competition at the Rodeo will also be served at his pop-up dinners.

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner, and in addition to celebrating this Irish holiday with lots of alcohol and green-colored food, corned beef is a staple item during this time of year.

Don't settle for just a regular corned beef hash or corned beef and cabbage dish (delicious though they may be), because Houston is home to several restaurants offering creative corned beef dishes you probably won't find in Ireland.

Irish Nachos at Kenneally's Irish Pub

You've probably had nachos covered with cheese, ground beef, jalapeños, tomatoes and a smorgasbord of other toppings. But you probably haven't had corned beef on top of nachos. Instead of tortilla chips, Kenneally's serves thick potato slices underneath its cheese and corned beef as its signature item.

Shamrock Special at Kenneally's Irish Pub

Kenneally's offers another twist on ordinary corned beef dishes by topping its signature thin-crust pizzas with corned beef. Its Shamrock Special takes pizza to a whole new level with savory corned beef, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and, of course, cheese. Get your Irish food fix with this delicious thin-crust pizza.

The Big Reubowski at Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen Restaurant

You can get just about anything with corned beef at Kenny & Ziggy's. But you don't want to miss its new burger menu, which features the Big Reubowski — a burger piled high with their house-cured corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. This is a hearty burger you'll want to try. So whether you're in the mood for a giant corned beef sandwich with pastrami, cole slaw and Russian dressing or a pancake-style omelet with corned beef, there are several ways for you to get your corned beef fix.

Corned Beef Burger at Brian O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant

Brian O'Neill's offers another corned beef burger to try in Houston — tender corned beef with gooey melted cheese on your choice of a sourdough, wheat or jalapeño cheese bun. You can order this burger off the restaurant's Deluxe Burger Bar menu or try corned beef sliders with sauerkraut and mustard during happy hour.

Irish Egg Rolls at Celtic Gardens

Celtic Gardens not only offers a lively atmosphere and great selection of drinks, it also serves up some tasty appetizers and entrées, including its Irish Egg Rolls. Order up these miniature egg rolls stuffed with a blend of cheese, cabbage, sauerkraut and corned beef. They're definitely not your everyday egg rolls. Dip them in the spicy whole-grain mustard sauce and you've got a finger-licking good appetizer.

Top 10

Straighten Up and Fly Right
The 10 best restaurants near Hobby Airport.

Katharine Shilcutt

One of the questions I get most frequently from friends who travel is this: Why isn't there anywhere to eat around Hobby Airport? To which I say: There are lots of places. You're not looking hard enough.

Hobby is in one of those parts of town that require a finer-toothed comb than, say, the Montrose or Upper Kirby areas, where good restaurants are on prominent display. But this just makes finding truly great spots that much more rewarding.

Moreover, some of the genuinely best restaurants in Houston in their categories can be found in the neighborhoods near Hobby: Frank's Grill, where time in the old diner seems to stand still; Shuttle Burgers, just south of the airport on Almeda-Genoa; Dot Coffee Shop, in the massive Gulfgate shopping complex, an old-timer amidst a thicket of boring chain restaurants; 888 Chinese, where old-school American-Chinese cuisine has never gone out of style; and even an outpost of James Coney Island, Houston's oldest and most beloved hot dog joint.

And that's not even cracking the Top 10.

10. C&D Burger Shoppe

If you're on the way to Hobby from down south, C&D Burger Shoppe is an easy stop. Equidistant from Beltway 8 and I-45 at the corner of Beamer and Fuqua, this former Dairy Queen has been a mainstay in South Houston since the early 1980s. It turns out better burgers than you'd get at a fast-food joint, for the same price. And here, you can get a Frito pie and a grape Kool-Aid to go with your cheeseburger, along with a heady dose of nostalgia. At lunch, it's a working man's destination, but it's all sleepy small-town vibes at night — perfect for stopping in for a meal and decompressing on your way home.

9. Mannie's Seafood

As with another favorite, Joyce's Seafood and Steaks, Mannie's serves a hybrid of Mexican and Cajun food — two cuisines that have historically employed seafood to great acclaim. Mannie's is the only place I know where you can order horchata and gumbo, micheladas and fried frog legs. It's as reliable for its fresh seafood such as cheap Gulf oysters as it is for its fried shrimp and fish platters. And in the grand tradition of other Mexican seafood joints such as Tampico and Connie's, those fried platters usually come with a side of fried rice.

8. Airport Italian Deli

Located just north of Hobby on Airport Boulevard, the aptly named Airport Italian Deli is the closest dining destination on this list. But that's not all this Italian-Cajun deli has going for it. Try the New Orleans-style muffulettas on soft, squishy bread or the homemade lasagna if you're not in too much of a hurry. You'll notice, however, that most people take their po-boys and sandwiches on freshly baked bread to go. Both the price and the food itself will make the idea of stopping by a Subway on the way out of town simply anathema.

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Bubba's near Memorial Park has a true-blue Cajun doing crawfish on the patio. Last weekend I  hit the spot after a bike ride and was impressed with $4.99/lb. crawfish/extras and beer priced like a Louisiana honky-tonk.