I got asked the following question a lot over last week, and yes, that's exactly what I did: “Are you really going to take your kid to a bar on St. Patrick’s Day?” I wasn’t alone either. McGonigel’s Mucky Duck was packed with families for their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and I maintain it is one of Houston's best family Spring Break outings.
That said, I am mindful of the holiday’s reputation for drunken revelry, as well as all the opportunities to meet drunk drivers between my home in Jersey Village and Upper Kirby. Our plan, which I recommend if you want to keep things E for Everyone and stay safe on the roads, was to arrive as soon as the festivities started at 11 a.m.
The first act we caught was a traditional Irish pub singalong led by Martin Burniston, complete with handouts for those of us who are used to just kind of drunkenly slurring through “Molly Malone” without actually knowing the words. Being early in the day and with a fairly unlubricated crowd, Burniston had a trying time getting the audience singing, but he endured with good cheer and some choice humorous toasts (my favorite was “If someone pinches you today, may the road rise up to meet them…in the face.”)
It was also a good chance to sample the special holiday menu, though attempts to introduce my daughter to our people’s…unique cuisine were unsuccessful. A cup of chips was the best I could get her to eat. The wife had what she assures me was extremely good fish and chips, served, amusingly, in a popcorn bucket. I settled for a corned beef sandwich, which was excellent, though I didn’t discover quite how messy it actually was until I left the pub and saw the mustard splatters all over my jeans.
I was driving, so I left the drinking to my wife, though I did sample the club's Jameson and ginger ale. These are not things I care for at all separately, but I can say from a taste sip that it’s definitely a cocktail you should give a shot. Mucky Duck mixes it perfectly, and made me wish I’d taken the bus so I could have more than a swallow.
Other acts included the Piper Jones Band; not only did they put on a hell of a traditional Irish music set on the outside stage, but EJ Jones serenaded the crowd waiting outside to get in with bagpipes while standing on the pub's roof. For us, the best concert of the day was Sia Beaton, a surprise addition to the schedule and someone I’ve been meaning to catch for a while now.
Beaton kept things simple, but her songs are amazing. She opened with an ode to finding a balance between identifying as both Irish and Texan, which warmed the cockles of my heart. It was her ukulele songs about Hawaii, though, that put a hush over the crowd. She sings of the islands with a plaintive beauty; the best compliment I can pay her is that she’s made me dig out my old CD Baby account information to order her work.
The kid’s favorite bit of the day was comedian, juggler and magician Jim Mackenzie. I can’t even remember a time when Mackenzie wasn’t around spreading his personal brand of mayhem and hilarity, and the Mucky Duck was no exception. He invited my daughter up on stage to help him juggle knives from atop a six-foot unicycle, something I was not at all sure the ceiling was going to be able to handle. Mackenzie pulled it off swimmingly, though, wowing the crowd with good-humored patter as he showed off.
All in all, we spent about three hours of St. Patrick’s Day at the Duck, leaving around 2 p.m. because of the rising temperature outside and the expiration date every seven-year-old has on good behavior. We’ll be back next year, count on it. Hope we’ll see you there.