Friday, May 24, 2013

The Kolache Chronicles II: Weikel's in LaGrange

Weikel’s Bon Ton Bakery
2247 W. State Highway 71 Bypass, La Grange, TX 78945
(979) 968-9413
You can order online and get them shipped anywhere!

So, we were motoring south to the greater Flatonia-Moulton metroplex on a business trip and to do some reconnoitering of the area, and decided to do a kolache-BBQ thing along the way. That meant kolaches and baked goods at Weikel’s in LaGrange going down, and ribs and sausage at City Market in Luling on the way back. First the kolaches, posted here as a gustidude Kolache Chronicle. Like the lesser Hruska’s in Ellinger, 14 miles down the highway, Weikel’s is surrounded by gas station bling, aisles of tsotchkes, a burger grill, and mini-market aesthetics; there is absoluteluy nothing from the outside that portends how orgasmic the inside will be.  Unlike the Parker-roll similar Hruska’s, Weikel’s is a serious bakery, making the best Czecheriffic kolaches in the great state of Texas.

Opening day of the Bon Ton Café in 1929.  Pictured behind the bar from left to right are owners “Pop” Weikel and Alvin Weikel (Jim's Father) and the chef.

The Weikel family has been in the restaurant business since 1929, when grandfather Alvin Weikel, and Alvin’s brother, “Pop,” opened up the Bon Ton Café in downtown La Grange to feed the county’s pipeline workers. Alvin’s son Jim and his wife Jo Ann opened the bakery-convenience store in 1985. Jo Ann's grandmother Annie Kulhanek migrated from Czechoslovakia as a young child, and she and her eight sisters grew up making kolaches with their mom. Competing sisters trying to out-do each other and gain compliments from the older folks led to perfection of the dough recipe, and then Jo Ann and Jim worked with her mom's recipe to scale it up for mass production, developing a true-to-taste batch version that could be made on a larger scale. Weikel’s was off and running.

Now, the kolaches: We bought some cherry and some sweet cream cheese (cream cheese is the most popular flavor). The light golden brown pastry is sweet, but not overly so, and has a soft crumb with a rich, buttery, yeasty flavor. This is what a kolache is supposed to taste like. The fillings seem like they are from scratch (or at least seriously modified from a #10 can product, to make them taste as good as they do). The fillings are copious and bulging-out the bottom of the pastry, nearing escape mass. The cinnamon rolls are perhaps the best I have ever eaten, made from that same kolache dough, with lots of buttery, sweet, vibrant, and aromatic cinnamon between the spirals of dough, and a perfectly textured sugar glaze on top. They also make a version with pecans and raisins inside. Superb stuff.  Weikel’s is a true bakery, and the illuminated cases are full of all kinds of baked goodies.


The lemon bar looked so tempting I could not pass it up, so we got a couple of them. After a kolache fix while motoring south to our destination (the kolaches as good as we knew they would be), we decided that we had to try the lemon bars as well. This is without question the finest lemon bar I have ever eaten, and I have eaten more than my share of lemon bars. The golden brown crust is so incredibly flaky and buttery that it has a hard time maintaining structural integrity. The lemon custard filling is perfect: just the right balance of lemony citrus tang and sweetness, with the lemon edging the sweet out by a nose extended at the last possible second; the texture is creamy and smooth. The dusting of powdered sugar on the top, while seeming excessive and superfluous, adds just the required amount of extra sweet to the sour.

Word: do NOT attempt to eat this in a car. I looked like I had been shot at close range with a shotgun shell full of pastry shards and powdered sugar, and had both hands schmeared with lemon custard, with all kinds of lemon bar debris hanging 
off of my beard. I would have loved to have had a photo of me at the time, but didn’t dare touch my camera in that condition. We had to pull over and shake-off our clothes outside the car; the ants along the roadside probably had a field day. Then I licked fingers and slaughtered numerous napkins for the next 10 miles or so, but it was SOOOOO worth the mess.

On the way out to the car I had to grab a package of Prasek’s Hillje Venison and Pork Semi-dry Sausage Sticks with Jalapeño. Prasek’s is a 35-year old Czech sausage shop-butcher down in El Campo, known for the excellent taste and high quality of their products. These semi-dry sausage sticks are like deer-pork crack; get suckered into the first one and many more are going to fall before the dust settles. They are so good that you will be sausage stick-tweaking for the rest of the day. Smoky, coarse ground, slightly gamey (a good thing), rich and porky, garlicky and chile-spicy sticks of goodness. Yum. By the way, B-Jo’s Bakery, which is inside Prasek’s and started by Mike Prasek’s wife Betty Jo when her son needed braces, makes kolaches and strudel that are up on a level with Weikel’s.
29714 US 59 Hwy
El Campo, Texas 77437
1-800-20-SMOKE (207-6653)

 Now, if you have ever wondered how Weikel’s stacks up against their down-the-road competition in Ellinger, let me assure you that there is no comparison. Weikel’s kicks their ass so soundly that it is criminal to utter both names in the same sentence. Don’t want to drive all the way to La Grange for a personal visit? The wonderful thing about today’s modern now-a-go-go world is that with the click of a mouse and a credit card that isn’t maxed out, your friendly delivery dude will saunter up to your door with boxes of all the Weikel’s and Prasek’s you want. God bless Texas.

Mick Vann ©

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