I once made the not-so-great mistake of calling a klobasnek a kolache. I'm sure you have by now, too. My usually mild-mannered friend of German/Czech/Austrian heritage let me have it. Kolaches are fruit-filled; klobasnek are sausage-filled. Lesson learned.
For Alice Vida of the Bexar County Czech Heritage Society, which holds its annual Czech festival this Sunday, October 23, explaining the differences was something the group had to do when attending the Institute of Texan Culture's Folklife Festival. For Sunday's heritage festival (San Antonio KC Hall, 5721 Rigsby, 12:30-4pm), the organization will feature a sausage dinner with Czech potato salad, an open dance, and plenty of kolaches (the sweet ones) to purchase via La Grange's Weikel's Bakery.
All the kolache/klobasknek talk turned into a mission from above. I enlisted freelancer/foodie Kim Olsen to join me in a kolache tour. For our purposes, we'll stick with kolache to mean savory, pockets of wonderfulness. Here are our results:
Jessica Elizarraras: So I had to cheat a little on this tour and pull a string at our starting location. Dignowity Kolaches, owned by Silvia Alcaraz and sister-chef Lupita Rivero, carry fruit kolaches (apple, cherry, blackberry, cream cheese and strawberry; $2) along with the appropriately named klobasnek. The usual suspects (priced between $2-$3.50) include sausage and cheese, jalapeño, bacon, ham and cheese and a Texas-size barbacoa available only on Fridays. Well, we did our tour on a Tuesday morning. Thankfully, Alcaraz and Rivero acquiesced to our request of two barbacoa kolaches. The sisters make the barbacoa the night before and it shows. It's lean and savory without being too greasy. The Cocina Heritage salsa that's offered is key. It adds just enough heat on the front end of the bite.
Kim Olsen: I also really liked the barbacoa kolache from Dignowity Kolache. At $3.50 a piece, they aren’t something I’d splurge on every day but they’d be a nice treat. The barbacoa was a tad drier than normal but they also served the kolache with hot sauce which I liked and thought enhanced the flavor of the barbacoa nicely.
1629 E. Houston St., (210) 320-1055.
JE: Kolache Factory is a Houston-based company with both company-owned and franchise-owned locations across the U.S. that number in the low 50s. There's plenty of reason for this. The kolaches (.89-$2.50) are actually pretty damn tasty. We didn't bother with regular flavors and instead opted for some of their less traditional offerings like the morning sausage and gravy, ranchero (ham, egg, cheese jalapeño and salsa), jalapeño popper, chicken enchilada and the kolache of the month, chorizo and egg. Aside from the head-scratching induced from trying to figure out how they get egg inside a kolache, most of these were winners. The ranchero (great for when you can't decide between tacos and kolaches) was pleasantly spicy, the chorizo had a bit of cilantro in it for good measure, the sausage and gravy was travel-safe and the jalapeño popper was downright dreamy. Kolache Factory was able to deliver good fillings because their dough was pliable, but sturdy. The drive will keep me at bay, but they're definitely worth the occasional trek.
11018 Culebra Road, (210) 509-9400.
JE: Y'all. Thanksgiving is around the corner. And Kolache Stop is playing to our love of fall flavors with a limited-run turkey and stuffing kolache. The business, which has been in the same spot for six years, carries fruit kolaches ($1.10-$1.25) along with breakfast and lunch kolaches ($1.35-$2.10). They delivered with the pepperoni roll, and the aforementioned Thanksgiving kolache, but fell flat for me with the tasteless bean and cheese. But, the dough, made daily in the wee hours of the morning, was a great vessel, and I'm interested in checking out more of the lunch kolaches such as the green chile chicken.
KO: The Kolache Stop dough was the perfect amount of crust and soft. Having experimented with making kolaches before I can appreciate how time consuming it is to make dough and let it rise. The Pepperoni kolache from there was a nice mix of cheese and pepperoni without the kolache being too greasy or filling. I also really liked their seasonal turkey and stuffing kolache, and it made me wish for a side of mashed potatoes. Don’t make the same mistake I made and order the bean and cheese kolache though, best to get a taco of that somewhere else.
11703 Huebner Road, Suite 200, (210) 558-3900.
JE: Admittedly a chain, we hit up DD because we had heard great things. The kolaches, shaped into cylinders unlike our previous two stops, didn't disappoint with fresh, yeasty dough. It also helped that they were kept in a warming oven so they were perfect as road snacks. The use of ham and Swiss slices instead of cubes (see: Kolache Stop) was a nice touch.
KO: I liked the bread for the kolaches at Daylight Donut ok but the sausage filling was not my favorite. I’m a bigger fan of a plumper kielbasa type sausage and the skinny sausages from Daylight were not my cup of tea.
9517 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 696-7979.
Mike Barajas (Honorary Kolache Tour Kritic): Buns can make all the difference. While there’s nothing particularly flashy or experimental about Bakery Lorraine's (the bakery makes the kolaches for all Local locations) standard dog-in-bun style kolaches, the kaiser dough gives them a buttery, slightly flaky and almost croissant-like texture. Which means that, even with simple options like poppy seed ($3.25) and jalapeño and cheese ($3.50), these are both tastier and more appealing than your standard squishy-bun variety.
Multiple locations, localcoffeesa.com.
JE: At $3.25, the brisket kolache at Beat Street has its merits. For starters, the brisket inside is adequately smoky and not something the chef-turned-pastry-chef skimps on. The dough did leave me a befuddled as it more closely resembled puff pastry rather than a sweetened yeasty roll. Compared to the barbacoa from Dignowity, the kolache was also on the small side, but the accompanying dipping sauce with hints of mayo and horseradish and just a bit of heat did help.
KO: Beat Street’s pressed kolache was also a miss for me but not because of the brisket filling (which was good) but because the bread was more croissant dough than yeast dough.
1810 Blanco Road, (210) 320-1018.
JE: If you love kolaches, but don't want to fill up on dough so early in the morning, BDB should be on your list. The sausage ($3.25) was flavorful and peppery, but the dough felt almost skimpy.
5001 Broadway, (210) 822-1621.