Road Trip: Kolaches at Rao's Bakery in Beaumont, Texas
Note: Katie Walsh and her pops, cookbook author and food historian Robb Walsh, embarked on a delicious road trip last week from Houston, Texas, to the Southern Foodways Alliance annual symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. Two days. Three states. And plenty of good eats along the way. For the next nine days, Katie will share one of her stops with us daily. Take it away, Katie! —The Mgmt.
Our first stop on the Texas-to-Mississippi trail was Rao's Bakery (pronounced ray-ohs) in Beaumont, Texas. Rao's is famous for Mardi Gras king cake, but we were after their sausage-stuffed Texas kolaches. We ordered one Zummo brand Italian with jalapeño, one Zummo with cheese, and one plain Jimmy Dean and ate them on the road with our coffee.
Kolaches are a Texas roadtripper's best friend. They're good hot or cold, sweet or savory, and they're mighty easy to eat with one hand. Kolaches are traditionally Czech pastries and can be found in a number of Czech communities throughout the U.S., from Oklahoma to Nebraska to Minnesota. Some states even throw annual kolache fests.
But the version you find in bakeries along Texas highways is all its own. You can get the classic poppy seed filling and lots of other gooey fruit flavors. They're generally square in shape and, shockingly, smaller than what you might find elsewhere, but only in Texas do you find the oblong favorites stuffed with jalapeños and spicy sausage (which is technically a klobasnek, not a kolache).
The two most well-known Texas kolache spots are Czech Stop in West and Weikels Bakery in La Grange, but neither are on our route, so we stopped at Rao's instead. Think cheesy pigs in a blanket with a good, spicy link and slightly sweet, airy dough. Breakfast of champions, as they say.
But all of this was just a prelude to some bizarre fusion kolaches we'd heard about in Louisiana. Onward.
4440 Dowlen Road, Beaumont TX 77706 (map); 409-347-3400
2596 Calder Avenue, Beaumont TX 77702 (map); 409-832-4342
Memorial Herman Baptist Hospital, 3080 College Street, Beaumont TX 77701 (map); 409-212-7777
About the author: Katie Walsh is a native Austin writer passionate about food and all things cultural. She holds a degree in sociology and Spanish from UT Austin and is both a columnist and senior editor for multicultural publication TODO Austin.