Czech Comfort Food in Texas

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Many readers may not know that parts of central Texas were heavily settled by Czech immigrants beginning roughly in the 1850s. One town with a strong Czech heritage, La Grange and its surrounding area, sits halfway between Austin and Houston on State Highway 71.

For visitors driving between these cities, there are some special bakeries focused on the Czech dessert, the kolache. A kolache is a puffy pastry with a center of filling (usually fruit) which is popular in central Europe. Most kolaches have an open center.

Weikel’s Bakery

In La Grange, family owned Weikel’s Bakery has been in business since 1929. While the building and accompanying Shell station may not look like much, some outside hints including the slogan “Jak se mas” (“How are you?” in Czech) and a sign saying “We Gotcha Kolache” give an idea at what’s inside. Ignore the deli and kitschy items for sale and head for the bakery.

Trays and trays of fresh kolaches are available, with specialties including cream cheese, cherry, strawberry, lemon, pumpkin (seasonal), blueberry and apricot. My personal favorite is the cream cheese as the sweet, tender dough, with the added cheese, is a special treat. I can’t eat just one. Each kolache will run $1.15 each and for gifts, packaged trays of six are available for sale.

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On my latest visit, the inside of Weikel’s was “organized chaos” as people were everywhere. The parking lot was full on a Saturday morning and I was surprised to see a tour bus stopped for breakfast. Weikel’s does have tables, as well as picnic tables outside, but most visitors get their kolaches to go.

This bakery has a following with fans who want fresh kolaches shipped to their door. I am embarrassed to admit that I have driven the eighty miles from Houston to Weikel’s just to buy good kolaches.

Kolaches at Weikel's

Kolaches at Weikel’s

Hruska’s Store and Bakery

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Roughly fifteen miles south of La Grange in tiny Ellinger, there is another unremarkable building and Chevron station, with delicious treats inside. Since 1912, family run Hruska’s has operated in Ellinger, with the current location across the road from the original store. Ellinger is small, and visitors may notice a rooster crowing and other chickens behind the shop before entering. Be sure to head straight to the bakery and past the burger grill and touristy gift items for sale.

Hruska’s has a variety of kolaches, some with unusual flavors. Apple, apricot, lemon, peach, prune (!), cherry, cottage cheese and poppy seed are some of the options available. I like the lemon best but the poppy seed (which is available in an open or closed pastry) has a strong following. The poppy seed tastes something like a poppy seed cracker—instead with a soft bread base. It’s a combination of sweet and savory flavors. Kolaches will run 95 cents each with a slight discount on half-dozen purchases.

A poppy seed kolache

A poppy seed kolache

Like Weikel’s, on my latest visit, the parking lot was packed. Lines at the bakery do move quickly and my pastries were warm, fresh from the oven. Seating is also available at long tables inside or there are picnic tables outdoors.

A tour bus was also parked at Hruska’s and I had no idea these bakeries had become tourist draws!

Kolaches at Hruska's

Kolaches at Hruska’s

I wanted to include this post for tourists headed between Austin and Houston. The kolache bakeries in this part of central Texas are something unique and road food worth the stop. I have been stopping at these bakeries for years and never miss a chance for real kolaches.

Weikel’s Bakery
2247 West State Highway 71
La Grange, Texas 78945
(979)968-9413

Hruska’s Store and Bakery
109 West State Highway 71
Ellinger, Texas 78938
(979)378-2333

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2 Responses to Czech Comfort Food in Texas

  1. jonathanochart says:

    I go to college in Austin, Texas, and I always hear people talking about kolaches. I never really knew what they were since they couldn’t really explain them to me, but you did a great job. Thanks so much for sharing!

    – Jonathan I http://styleoverstress.wordpress.com

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