Tunnel Explorer: The Kolache Shoppe

Even better than free kolaches.
Even better than free kolaches.

I took last Monday off so that I could be there for my youngest daughter's first day of school. As a result, the entire week was on tilt, off by one day. I didn't really notice it until Friday. It was kind of nice to realize that it was not, in fact, Thursday. Aside from making the weekend seem to pop up out of nowhere, it also made me forget about Kolache Friday.

Every Friday, our accounting department brings in kolaches. Or bagels. Either way, it's Kolache Friday. Honestly, it's the only thing that gets us through some weeks. When I was still on shift, it was also a source of sustenance to last us through the weekend; a bumper crop to defend against forgotten lunches. A three-day-old, room-temperature kolache sounds pretty good around midnight on Sunday. Shift-workers have iron-clad stomachs.

Since I thought it was Thursday, though, I wasn't expecting kolaches. But I was craving them. The yen hit as I walked through the outskirts of old Chinatown to my office, leaving me few options for satisfying it. Thankfully, I remembered having passed The Kolache Shoppe on one of my many forays into the subterranean jungle.

Nestled between Lennie's Sub Shop and Baoz Dumplings underneath First City Tower, The Kolache Shoppe is a small outfit, usually displaying a dozen or so varieties of kolaches, filled with everything from cherries to chorizo. I wanted to experience both ends of the spectrum, so I opted for two filled with sausage, jalapeño, and cheese and one with tart cherries. The options skewed heavily toward meat fillings, but it was nice to see a handful of fruit varieties, each of which looked good.

When I got upstairs with my breakfast, I realized the error of my ways. I was momentarily upset about buying kolaches when there were freebies within a few feet of my desk. I stopped being disappointed as soon as I bit into one of mine.

I won't claim to be a kolache expert, but the ones that are so thoughtfully provided every week just aren't very good. These are the bread-tube variety, with overly smushy and sweet dough wrapped clammily around industrial sausage. The dough-to-filling ratio is always off, and the pastry is under seasoned and cloying.

In comparison, The Kolache Shoppe is a paragon of the form. Barely sweet dough cushions a judicious amount of filling, maintaining its texture and refusing to succumb to the clam-inducing moisture. It's a bit like a biscuit, but softer. Just the right hint of salt and a strident current of yeast make the pastry, itself, worth a second visit.

The fillings were less inspiring, but still pretty good. The sausage contained its cheese and jalapeño, but its slightly coarse texture was more pleasing than the emulsified and extruded cheese-dog you might be imagining. It could have used more heat, and fresh slices of jalapeño would have been a nice addition. The cherry-filled pastry strode the line between sweet and tart admirably, the sticky glaze and chunky cherries playing well off of the saltiness in the dough, and the slightly flaky texture offering nice balance to the softly chewy fruit. I'm pretty sure those weren't fresh cherries, but I didn't mind.

Several of my coworkers glanced longingly at my kolaches as they sadly munched their doughy tubes. I was suddenly glad I had mistaken the day for Thursday. Maybe I can convince the accountants that it would be more convenient for them to stop by The Kolache Shoppe. It would certainly be more delicious.

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