Crazy for Crawfish

Houston's 10 best mudbug joints.

7. Thai Jasmine

For those days when you need to get good and liquored up before a flight — or want to celebrate touching back down in Houston — Thai Jasmine is the spot for you. The Thai restaurant is BYOB and doesn't have a corkage fee, so bring that classy hooch you bought at the duty-free shop on the way home. The restaurant has an allure beyond cheap booze, though, offering some of the honestly best Thai food in town for next to nothing. At lunch, most dishes are only $5.99. At dinner, the most expensive item on the menu isn't over $15.

6. Shan Hu Chinese

Freshly boiled bugs at The Seafood Shoppe.
Troy Fields
Freshly boiled bugs at The Seafood Shoppe.
A big, beautiful breakfast at Tel-Wink Grill.
Dawn McGee
A big, beautiful breakfast at Tel-Wink Grill.

This is not your average Chinese restaurant. Shan Hu has specialized in Korean Chinese food for more than 30 years, a cuisine that has its roots in a mass emigration of Chinese from Korea in the 1960s after Korea enacted laws that prevented foreign ownership of property. The Chinese expats who had been living in Korea up until that time had invented their own hybrid cuisine, which lives on in places like Shan Hu, where you'll find dishes such as jaam-bong (a spicy seafood stew) alongside Korean favorites like bulgogi and Chinese favorites like crispy duck.

5. Tel-Wink Grill

This traditional American diner — a little piece of the old-school Telephone Road that borders Hobby Airport to the west — caters to the early birds rather than the night owls. Tel-Wink Grill will serve you breakfast whenever you want it — as long as you want it before 2:30 p.m., which is when it closes. The prices seem to have ignored inflation since the place first opened in the 1950s, and the dishes are the same, too — bacon and eggs, pancakes, chicken-fried steak, waffles, grits and homemade hash browns. If you get there anytime after 9 a.m., be ready for a long but reasonably quick-moving line. That said, this is not the place to get in and out quickly before a flight.

4. Casarez

As with Mannie's Seafood, Casarez specializes in a distinct blend of Cajun and Tex-Mex that it calls "Creole-Mex," with dual signs out front in Spanish and English that read simply: "Coma aquí! Eat here!" Look for shrimp and crawfish enchiladas topped with étouffée sauce or a battered and fried avocado stuffed with shrimp and served on a bed of rice and beans. Affable owners Bobby and Charlie are always on hand, visiting with regulars and making sure each table's order comes out correctly. And although it's not a fast-food joint, it's a terrific last lunch before boarding a plane headed away from our bounty of Cajun and Mexican food.

3. Burger Park

Burger Park — a humble, low-slung burger joint on Martin Luther King just off the South Loop — turns out anywhere from 400 to 500 burgers a day. Dinner is the 45-year-old restaurant's busiest time, with neighborhood residents crowding the tiny parking lot and lining up outside to get their burger fix before Burger Park closes at 7:30 p.m. But if you're swinging past on the Loop on your way to the airport, it's a breeze to grab a quick cheeseburger and fries from friendly owners Gil and Oak Kim. (Ask for your fries extra crispy, and don't forget a peach slush.)

2. City Cafe

Depending on which side of the house you sit in, City Cafe is a throwback to either the late '80s or the mid '50s. It's the latter that I prefer, and not just because you can smoke (!) on that side of the building (although the anachronistic sight of cigarettes and coffee at City Cafe's long diner counter is pretty mesmerizing). It's because this side is closer to the bustling kitchen, steam table and counter, which ensures you'll get plenty of sassy service and people-watching while you wait for your golden malted waffles at breakfast. Breakfast is the best time to go, too, and offers the same excellent Texas-style grits and biscuits as Tel-Wink Grill without the wait.

1. Pho Binh Trailer

The other two locations of Pho Binh (on Beechnut and Mangum) are larger and more convenient and offer more complete menus. But pho fanatics agree that it's worth the drive to the original Pho Binh in the trailer near I-45 and Beltway 8. Even if the pho tasted exactly the same, the colorful experience of eating an early-morning bowl of breakfast soup at Houston's favorite pho trailer is worth the extra effort. If you've been out of town for too long, this should be one of your first stops after arriving back in Houston — and it's one of the places we absolutely love to take out-of-towners.

Brew Blog

Pro Tips
How to complete a Saint Arnold pub crawl intact.

Brooke Viggiano

I'm fairly certain I've reached pro status when it comes to the Saint Arnold Brewery Pub Crawl. Quite the feat — I know. I'd like to thank my friends, the good people at Saint Arnold and myself for having way too much time on my hands.

Texas's oldest craft brewery hosts the infamous pub crawls a few times a year, usually at the beginning of a season, to showcase their latest brews. The crawls are always a good time and, in my opinion, the perfect way to spend a Saturday — show up to the first bar on the list, get a punch card and a beer, follow the crawl to the next bar and repeat.

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My Voice Nation Help

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.