Finding Texas Kolaches in Prague

February 21, 2015

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The challenge in the Czech Republic, to those than even have a few hours in the airport, is not consuming beer. For a mere 23-25 CZK (~$1), you can easily get 300 mL of some fine Pilsner at any pub in Prague. In all honesty, I’m not much of a beer person, but with the price often cheaper than a bottle of water and the quality being decent, it’s hard to not get into the habit of knocking back a glass or two after lunch… and for some, at breakfast.

The UK has its pubs. France has its wine. Germany has beer gardens. America may have all of the above, but is probably more well known internationally for its cocktails and spirits. In the Czech Republic, you don’t have to dash into a watering hole to get drunk or even spend a mountain of cash. I discovered this rather quickly after a late arrival in Prague and searching for something to eat. Vietnamese noodle shops seem to be the most common foreign food, but availing yourself of Prague street sausage, hot wine, potato dumplings, goulash, and kolaches is even better.

Along those lines, I had a mission when I realized I’d be passing through the Czech Republic on this trip. Texas may be internationally known for its ridiculously large steaks and BBQ, but anyone who’s taken I-35 between Dallas and Austin frequently knows to stop for kolaches in West.

Ah, the Czech Stop.
“Ah, the Czech stop” by Theresa

For over thirty years, the Czech Stop Bakery has been serving up central European pastries at a little wayward shop. When I was first introduced to the “kolache”, I thought it must have been served in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in much the same way it was in Texas: flaky, buttery bread wrapped around a fine sausage.

Fast forward ten years. Now I’m finally in Prague, and asking around as to what bakery serves kolaches (ko-lach, no “ee” sound as we do back home). It turns out, nearly all of the offerings I saw from the small corner bakeries to the touristy shops near Charles Bridge were for circular rolls with a variety of fruit and cheese. Don’t get me wrong, these were delicious and a welcome addition to morning tea, but I wanted to find out if kolaches as I had known them even existed.

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Regular sausages are common enough street food and sold in Wenceslas Square like hot dogs with brown mustard. The closest thing I found wasn’t even really a specialty: trdlobasa. Trdlo (just try saying it) is a Czech sweet cooked by wrapping dough around a rotating hot wooden stake over a fire. It’s not typical to have savory versions of this sweet with sausage inside the dough, but I managed to find something like the above picture near the Charles Bridge.

Mission accomplished? In a way. We all go into different places with preconceptions. Europeans visiting Texas might believe they’re going to be shot or greeted at every turn by cowboy hat-wearing yokels. I honestly thought I had a good chance of finding something I had been taught was authentic Czech food. But despite my disappointment at not having found a true Texas kolache, the reality of Prague food was better than what I had visualized. Besides, after you get a beer and kolache in Texas, you have to deal with open container laws 😛

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