On a recent afternoon, I took my three-year-old son and his friend to visit the Thicket, a collection of food trailers, picnic tables and playscapes on South 1st street (just north of Dittmar, between William Cannon and Slaughter Lane). We went around 2 PM on a sunny weekday, but it had been raining for a few days prior and the parking lot was filled with muddy ruts. It looked as if normally you can drive around the entire perimeter of the area, but my small Toyota couldn’t navigate the mud and pits, so I parked off to the side, where it was higher and dryer.
According to its website, the Thicket is a “food park and community space in South Austin” and a “family-friendly neighborhood gathering space.” The day we went, it appeared to be just a food trailer spot with an appealingly funky, Austin-y collection of chairs, tables and playscapes, all gathered together under the shade of a thicket of cedar trees. According to the space’s website and Facebook page, the Thicket also includes (or will soon include) a community garden, outdoor yoga classes, live music and more.
We went straight to Level Up, a smoothie shop housed in a big, colorful bus that sells 18-ounce smoothies and organic soups of the day. They were all sold out of soup by the time we got there, so we ordered smoothies—The Usual for the kids (a strawberry-banana concoction) and one for me with a name I can’t recall (it was a bunch of veggies plus strawberry and blueberry—tart and delicious!). The man working inside was gracious about splitting the kids’ smoothie into two cups so they could share.
After Level Up, the kids ran off to play while I headed over to get a grilled-cheese sandwich from Grilled Chi. My son, his friend and I all agreed the smoothies were delicious, while the grilled cheese was just okay, though better with the pickle I found nestled in the little box halfway through. (The Grilled Chi menu featured lots of bacon, which I’m sure would make for a more flavorful sandwich…for people who like bacon! I don’t eat pork, so maybe that’s why mine was a little bland.) The people who worked at both trailers we visited were really friendly and helpful—excellent customer service.
While we were there, another trailer, My Granny’s Kitchen, pulled in and started setting up for business. Their menu looked delicious, and I want to try them next time!
The kids loved the Thicket. I’d been a little nervous about busy S. 1st Street being so nearby, but the boys didn’t care one bit about the road; they wanted to run and climb all over the many playscapes dotting the area.
And it really is a thicket of trees—cedars, in case you missed that earlier. (If you go during cedar fever season, be sure to take your allergy meds beforehand!) Since it had rained so recently before we went, many of the chairs were leaning against tables to prevent their collecting water, so we had no trouble finding dry places to sit.
One of the coolest spots to sit was on top of the Level Up bus. I didn’t even notice that was an option until my son started climbing the stairs up to the bus’s roof (careful—those stairs are tall, narrow and steep!). Up on top, he and his friend had a great time charging around, gleefully shouting, “I can see everything!” And the view really was lovely. There were several shade umbrellas that must be nice to use when it’s hot out, and lots of chairs, and the whole rooftop was enclosed with a good railing, so I didn’t feel nervous for the kids’ safety.
The Thicket didn’t have many customers or a whole lot going on at the time that we went. Many of the food trailers are open only in the mornings or the evenings, or both; between about noon and 5 PM, several of the trailers close down. (The Level Up, however, is open all day.) The whole place had an air of up-and-coming-ness to it—as if, given a few more months or a year, or maybe just this summer when it’s warm and kids are out of school, it will be even more fun and thriving than it is now. There’s a BBQ trailer currently under construction that should be up and running in a few months, and I’m sure there are big plans for more excitement in the future.
I’ll have to return on a warmer day, maybe around dinner time, to see if it’s a little more hoppin’ than it was when we went—which is not to knock the gentle peace and quiet we encountered the day we were there. Sitting in the fresh air on a swing beneath the shade of cedar trees, listening to the breeze and the laughter of children playing nearby, is actually one of my favorite things in the world. Smoothies and grilled cheese aren’t too far behind. The Thicket delivered all of that.