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Written by Texas Highways

People talking on tour at Garrison Brothers

Blame it on Tito’s. The craft vodka from Austin, which grew from obscurity 20 years ago into one of Texas’ most popular spirits brands, has inspired a widespread passion for Texas-made firewater. That includes bourbon, which contrary to popular belief, doesn’t have to come from Kentucky—but does have to be made in the United States. 

Jason Cogburn with a basket of crawfish

As I pull onto Dike Road from Texas City’s Bay Street in the pastel dawn, bright pops of neon signage and illuminated billboards lead the way to Boyd’s One Stop and Cajun Grill Express. As most of the awakening city’s residents stumble toward the coffeepot, Boyd’s is already an anthill of activity. Anglers—some towing sleek bay boats, others with roof-racks stacked with kayaks—vie for parking slots. Parents with bright-eyed youngsters and bait buckets stream through the bait shop’s door. 

Illustration of El Paso and Juarez

Way out at the western tip of Texas—more than 500 miles from any other major Texas city—percolates El Paso, the northern side of one of the world’s biggest border communities.

A young child runs by the artwork

Nestled among the trees in a beloved Austin green space along Shoal Creek, a playful contemporary art installation has infused new life into one of Texas’ oldest public parks.

Chet Garner in front of the Boerne water tank

The German heritage of the Hill Country is well-known when it comes to towns like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. But sprinkled throughout the rolling hills are a number of smaller burgs that carry a similar and just-as-interesting cultural history. Take Boerne, northwest of San Antonio, for example, which makes for an excellent day trip destination. Just don’t pronounce it “Bo-Urn.”

Inside Hendley Market

At the eastern end of the Strand, a historic boulevard in Galveston lined with busy restaurants and souvenir shops, an unusual sign in the shape of bespectacled eyes attracts attention. 

Girl licks the Salt Palace Museum wall.

Standing outside the Salt Palace Museum in Grand Saline, my wife leaned in close and stuck out her tongue. Then she licked the building.

The pool at Cavalry Court

Sitting down to a late-afternoon drink at The Stella Hotel’s airy lobby bar in Bryan, awash in natural light spilling through floor-to-ceiling windows, my overriding thought is, Ahh. At last.

Attendees stand outside a theater.

Remember: You do it because you love it,” said Tom Provost, sitting on a stage flanked by three other screenwriters, all surprisingly chipper for 9:30 on a Saturday morning during Fredericksburg’s Hill Country Film Festival.

Kayaker in Big Cypress Bayou

Two hours into my canoeing adventure on Caddo Lake, I saw an osprey swoop down into the water and emerge with a fish clutched in its beak. I was debating whether the raptor would stick around long enough for me to pull out my binoculars when an enterprising bald eagle suddenly appeared and struck the osprey in mid-air. The osprey tumbled but managed to keep the fish, and then flew higher. My group watched in wonder as the two magnificent birds circled one another over the lake’s cypress forest for several minutes.

Mary Faulk Koock, the third of five children of Mattie and Henry Faulk and the original proprietor of Green Pastures Restaurant, wrote The Texas Cookbook: From barbecue to banquet—an informal view of dining and entertaining the Texas way, published in 1965. This is an updated version of Koock’s recipe for “cheese filling,” which contains pimentos and hard-boiled eggs.

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Austin’s famous Green Pastures Restaurant is reborn as Mattie’s

The update doesn’t include jarred pimentos. “The red bell peppers we use provide the same pepper flavor and color without the cloying sweetness,” says Chef Joshua Thomas. “We grill the peppers over mesquite to provide a subtle smoky flavor.”

A dining room inside Mattie's

The first time I visited Green Pastures Restaurant, as a new Austin resident in the early 1980s, it felt like going to dinner with relatives—if mine had been well-to-do. That feeling came from the restaurant’s setting in a grand 1890s home on spacious, oak-shaded grounds as well as the warm atmosphere and general good mood of everyone there.

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