For two years, Don Kirrin Snack House has been an oasis of icy cold drinks and hot snacks in the East Aldine District. But their reputation for quality and creativity draws customers not only from the Aldine area, but from as far as the Woodlands, Conroe, or Katy. “There are a lot of refresquerias around Houston, but my customers tell me that we are worth the drive,” says Ludy Almazan. She and her husband Eduardo Castaneda founded and own Don Kirrin.
The idea for opening a drink and snack shop came one Sunday as Ludy and her family were coming home from church. “After church we always stop for an elote or an agua fresca, but my kids don’t like being out in the Houston heat especially with church clothes,” says Ludy. Most snack shops are trucks or are not set up for indoor seating.
“That day we went straight home because it was too hot outside,” says Ludy. “Talking with our kids and playing games together is really important to us. We are very family oriented. So, we sat down together and played a game of dominoes. As we talked, my kids imagined a snack shop where families can hang out, play games, spend time together or even watch Netflix.”
“We started discussing the idea as a family, and we thought, “why don’t we try to make a place like that ourselves?” remembers Ludy. The family decided to open their new business in an available space adjacent to the car dealership that they own. It didn’t take long before Don Kirrin became the place that the family envisioned. “We had students bringing their laptops to work here, people bringing their own board games, families watching Netflix; what we have at home is what we have at Don Kirrin,” says Ludy.
Of course, this was pre-Covid, before Don Kirrin went to-go only for the safety of their staff and customers. Although business has slowed down since March, the shop has been able to support their employees, and keep their doors open. “We’re not sure when we will re-open our dining area, but the to-go system is working for us,” says Ludy.
Now Chef Estuardo Morales works behind the scenes to create the delectable items you’ll see on Don Kirrin’s Instagram, @don_kirrin. Family values still extend into the menu, if you know what to look for. The snack shop does not serve alcohol, and many of their items were inspired by their children. Two of their best sellers, the “Eddie Dirty Ice Cream” and the “Titi Lemonade” were designed with their children’s favorite ingredients.
“We have always worked with organizations like schools, kids’ sports teams, or Baker Ripley,” says Ludy. “We are really involved with the community and like to participate in events to help out, whether that’s donating food or a percentage of our sales.”
From the classic mangonada to the most extravagant jarrita, Don Kirrin’s drink flavors provide the sweet, refreshing answer to your dessert cravings. The jarrita, given this name due to the glass jar that this drink is contained in, is an amazing bouquet of fruit and candy. The jar itself is full of mango smoothie with a drizzling of chili chamoy. Skewers sprouting from the jar hold watermelon and orange slices, strawberries, Mexican candy, cherries, other pieces of fruit, and the required tiny umbrella on top.
Sweets include ice cream-based desserts, fruit with a world of colorful toppings, crepes and churros, a variety of smoothies and frozen drinks, raspas and more. Elote, snack trays, burgers, and the latest addition of Mexican-inspired sushi are some of the salty snacks that you can grab along with your drink.
Ludy’s decision to create Mexican sushi comes from her desire to make a favorite Asian dish more accessible. “Some people either have had bad experiences with sushi in the past, don’t like the subtle flavors, or have never tried it before,” says Ludy. “We love Asian food, so we decided to use Hispanic ingredients like cilantro, jalapeno, grilled onions, Oaxaca cheese to create a fusion that people love.”
Sticking with cooked sushi rather than raw further removes barriers for those wanting to try it for the first time. The most popular so far are the Eddy Roll, inspired by Ludy’s son, the Ribeye Roll, and the Chef’s Special, which is different every day.
Whether you call ahead, or walk into order, make sure to utilize the Don Kirrin loyalty card, where every $10 spent gets you closer to a free menu item. You’ll most likely see Ludy behind the counter, a friendly face underneath a protective mask.
“My favorite thing about running my business is the relationships we build with our customers. We treat them the way we want to be treated. Some of my regulars have become close friends over the past two years. That’s the best thing.”
Don Kirrin Snack House
13510 Aldine Westfield Rd, Houston, TX 77039