One of my fondest memories of growing up in a small Texas town is of attending Little League baseball games in the spring. The fields were among the earliest places where I could congregate and socialize with my peers without adult supervision. Kids of all ages would run around, play, and gossip as the sun went down and the stadium lights went up, attracting all the bugs in the county. When we tired, we’d rustle up four quarters each and exchange them for snow cones at the Lions Club stand. Only the bravest kid would get pickle juice flavor.
I can’t go back, of course, but I do plan on attending a few sandlot games this season to cheer on Austin’s local team, the Texas Playboys (featuring Texas Monthly’s own John Spong). The quirky, sandlot-style games prioritize camaraderie over competition and are a true Texas original, the creation of an Austin architect who just wanted to play ball with his creative friends. The atmosphere is more block party than MLB, featuring live music, fundraising for local nonprofits, and pop-up vendors hawking vintage, vinyl, good eats, and, this weekend, Lone Star tattoos. Instead of snow cones, those without need of adult supervision can Bring Their Own Beer. But the gossiping, the play, the social scene? Those are all available in spades. It’s a grown-up kid’s idea of a good time.
The Playboys’ next game is April 9 in Austin. If you’re not in Central Texas, Marfa, El Paso, Houston, and Galveston all have their own teams.
—Taylor Prewitt, social media editor
Bite Into H-E-B’s Pickle Me Dilly Spicy Dill Pickles
When I was growing up, a family friend in Temple kept me supplied with the best spicy dill pickles I’ve ever had. They were homemade with freshly harvested pickling cucumbers procured from an old Czech woman on a farm in Zabcikville. In addition to the midsize cucumbers, the jars were packed with a garlic clove, a hot red pepper or handpicked chile pequin, a number of black peppercorns, and a few sprigs of fresh dill. They possessed an extraordinary snap that revealed a farm freshness the likes of which just isn’t found in pickles—or much of anything else—that often these days.
After I moved away to college, in the middle 1980s, these delicious pickles became less a part of my life. And then after my mom died, in 2005, they disappeared forever. Since then, I’m sad to say, I’ve relied mainly on commercial pickles, which have typically lacked the freshness and perfectly restrained peppery kick that I miss.
But recently, I was pleased to discover H-E-B’s Pickle Me Dilley Spicy Garlic Pickles. The in-house Pickle Me Dilley label boasts a few varieties—whole dill, sour dill, kosher dill gherkin, sweet, etc.—but the Spicy Garlic is the one for any true lover of the briny arts. Pickle Me Dilley Spicy Garlics are perfectly sour, not too salty (they’re made with sea salt), garlicky but not overly so, have a pleasant—subtle but not too subtle—hint of dill, and are endowed with a snap and red-pepper piquancy so remarkable as to be reminiscent of my beloved pickles of yore. They’re so good you’ll even forgive the silly name.
—David Courtney, senior editor
Hang Out at Comic Coffee + Beer Garden
Spring is here, which means it’s time to start taking full advantage of the best outdoor hangout spots. Tucked away in South Austin is the perfect place for all occasions: Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden, which boasts—as the name implies—coffee, beer, and so much more. Created with the principles of permaculture, sustainability, and regenerative systems in mind, Cosmic houses ponds, a rainwater catchment, and a chicken coop, in addition to food and drink.
It’s not uncommon to spot work-from-homers sipping a coffee at Cosmic as they clack away on their keyboards. But those (like me) who are too prone to distractions to work amid hustle and bustle can wait until after work and try Cosmic’s delicious new selection of springtime cocktails instead. I recommend the Cosmo Collins, a fruity combination of pomegranate vodka and citron seltzer. And with food trucks situated on the perimeter of the garden serving barbecue (don’t even get me started on the melt-in-your-mouth goodness that is LeRoy and Lewis’s burger with a smoked brisket patty), chicken wings, and tacos, it’s easy to spend the whole day basking in the sun among the greenery.
—Maya Mojica, editorial intern
Read a Pocket-Size Travel Companion
Headquartered in Austin, Wildsam Field Guides publishes a line of boutique travel guides written by locals. Part memoir, part journalism, and part road map, each guide weaves past and present into its pages with stories, recommendations, and hand-drawn sketches. The books aim to capture the beauty in the unexpected instead of focusing on the high-adrenaline adventure of travel. The brand has grown from city manuals to include road trips, national parks, photo almanacs, and (my favorite) a guide to the ultimate travel destination: the moon.
There are over forty guides, so there’s almost certainly a pocket-sized travel companion for a destination on your list. If you are staying in Texas, check out the Austin, San Antonio, or Texas Road Trip guides. The Austin edition, Wildsam’s second book after Nashville, features essays from Texas Monthly staffers and alumni John Spong, Joe Nick Patoski, and Pamela Colloff. Prep for your next adventure with one of these curated guides that capture the culture of a place. Then run your trip the Wildsam way—let the itinerary take a back seat to spontaneity.
—Jacqueline Knox, editorial intern