Kolaches, The Midwest's Favorite Breakfast Treat, Have Finally Arrived In LA
Most Californians have a narrow view of Texan cuisine. Tell a fellow Angeleno you're bound for the Lone Star State and they'll probably congratulate you on all the barbecue, queso and breakfast tacos you're about to eat. Those are all great things but your friends probably won't mention a certain Tex-Czech item that Texans have been enjoying for more than a century. We're talking about the kolache.
Pronounced by Texans as "ko-LAH-chee," this is a dense, almost brioche-like bread with assorted fillings, which native Texans often take for granted — until we leave the state. That's what I did three years ago. Kolaches are cheap, easy to eat on-the-go and available just about everywhere in the nation's Czech Belt, from mom-and-pop bakeries to artisanal joints to Whole Foods. I'd often pick them up at gas stations on weekend road trips.
Midwesterners like my grandma Sharon, descended from the wave of Czech immigrants who began arriving in the United States in the mid-1800s, will tell you, loudly and emphatically, that kolaches just ain't what they used to be. They decry the inclusion of eggy, meaty ingredients, which have become popular across the Lone Star State. Technically, they're right. These savory versions aren't really kolaches, they're klobasneks, although it's a distinction that's probably too late to correct.
The kolaches those early immigrants brought with them were sweet and filled with fruit. By the turn of the century, the Bohemian treat had become popular in cities like Omaha, Chicago, St. Louis and wherever else Czech immigrants settled in large numbers. But kolaches didn't make it in mass to the West Coast.
How many Czech restaurants or bakeries have you seen around Los Angeles? Longtime Angelenos may remember a few long-closed spots like Little Prague on Hollywood Blvd. and Matuszeks on Sunset, and South Bay residents may have stopped in at Czech Point in Redondo Beach, but it's been slim pickings.
That may be changing thanks to the increased number of Texans and Californians swapping states with regularity, bringing their favorite dishes and cuisines with them. Apparently, those "Welcome to Austin: Don't Move Here" signs aren't having much of an impact. I've seen Californians crying tears of joy at In-N-Out's arrival in Texas and countless articles have been written about Californians driving up housing prices in Texas. On the California end, have you seen the line for breakfast tacos and queso at HomeState in Silver Lake?
Kolaches haven't been left out of the culinary cross-pollination. If you know where to look, you'll find options.
Kolaches were a weekend thing for brothers Mark and James Morales, founders of Morning Boys. Growing up in Texas, they used to eat them after church. After moving to L.A. they couldn't find many places offering the Texan staple so they took matters into their own hands — and their own kitchens. By 2014, they were in business delivering kolaches around town. A few years later, they started hosting pop-ups and taking orders on their website. They sell a lot of sausage kolaches but vegetarians will also find a soyrizo option alongside traditional sweet kolaches. These days, they're working on finding a location for a brick-and-mortar location while expanding their menu, which might feature other Texas favorites. Check their website for their weekly schedule or to place an order. On certain days, you can also find their kolaches at the businesses below.
- Home Brewed Bar: 39 N. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena; 626-397-2887.
- Hi-Lo Liquor: 8582 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 424-298-8443.
There are a ton of Kolache Factory locations in Texas but only one on the West Coast, for now. Kathy Skaff, a native Houstonian, brought the franchise to Tustin nearly five years ago. She says she and her husband want to open up two or three more in the next few years. "Once we hit the two-year mark, we saw a significant increase in business," she says. In the early days, part of the challenge was explaining what kolaches are. In the first year, transplanted Texans made up a major chunk of their customers. Now, kolaches are officially a hit in Orange County. The store's menu is robust. Walk up to the counter and you'll be greeted with an array of dozens of flavors, ranging from classics like cherry and cream cheese to the best-selling Ranchero (scrambled eggs mixed with ground ham, picante sauce, cheese and jalapeños).
- 14091 Newport Ave., Tustin; 714-730-2253.
Tiny Daily Donuts in South L.A. is about as old-school as you can get. Located next to a storefront church on the corner of Manchester and San Pedro, this family-owned, 24-hour bakery is easy to miss. Hidden among its regular assortment of donuts and twists, you'll find sausage-cheese-and-jalapeno kolaches for $1 apiece.
- 8524 S. San Pedro St., Watts; 323-752-4429.
House of Bread
Valley residents looking to sate their kolache craving need look no further than Chatsworth's House of Bread. This outpost of the San Luis Obispo-based bakery offers almost every kind of fresh bread you can imagine. It has been selling ham-and-cheese kolaches for a couple of years now.
- 20507 Devonshire St., Chatsworth; 818-885-0209.
Marshall Donuts is an unlikely place to find Czech pastries but one of the first things you notice when you walk up to the entrance is a giant poster of a klobasnek. The place refers to them as both "sausage rolls" and "kolaches," a smart idea since "kolache" doesn't mean much to Californians — yet.
- 3144 N. E St., San Bernardino; 909-886-1053.