The New Orleans food scene continues to diversify, spinning out a widening array of offerings that make eating out here more surprising than ever. Add to this growing list kolaches, a humble Texas pastry with Czechoslovakian roots. They fill a role akin to Louisiana’s boudin and hand pies – a convenient grab-and-go snack found at gas stations and mom-and-pop stores across Texas. So when Will Edwards came to LSU in 2006 he was immediately struck by their absence. “When I was a kid in Houston, breakfast tacos and kolaches seemed to be on every corner,” Edwards said. “I grew up on them. Every donut shop sold kolaches alongside the donuts.”
While Edwards was at LSU he would joke with his fellow Texas natives that someone would make a killing if they opened a kolache shop near campus. But as graduation loomed and Edwards was thinking about his next step in life, the joke turned into a business plan. “I just took this idea and I ran with it. I figured the price points of kolaches and tacos would fit a student’s budget. I thought if we locked down a good location we’d just have a built-in market for this stuff.” His first location opened in 2013 and his second soon after. Now Edwards has expanded regionally, bringing his Kolache Kitchen to Freret Street Uptown.
Kolaches are not fancy. This is college and crowd-pleasing snack food with a price that makes it compete with fast food but with a homemade quality, which makes it far more appealing. To make a kolache, a house-made yeasted dough is wrapped around various fillings (both savory and sweet) then baked off for a quick and affordable snack. Every culture has a variation on this – think Samosas in Indian cuisine or Empanadas in Latin. Try the Bacon and Cheese, stuffed with chopped bacon (for the most part the cheese used is American, although cheddar and provolone appear elsewhere on the menu). Patton’s Hot Sausage and Cheese ups the spice quotient, while homemade boudin fills a Cajun-inspired version.
Also on the menu are empanadas. These use the same dough as the kolaches but are sized up. The “Jalapeño, Sausage and Cheddar” was a winner on the last visit. Breakfast tacos are featured as well and are big sellers. “Everything is made fresh in house every day,” Edwards said. “The rancheros are filled with meat, eggs and cheese. Our main sellers are the classic sausage and cheese and also the bacon and cheese. There is really something for everyone on the menu and the price points are good. The students really seem to like them.”
Edwards calls the operation a quick service bakery café, which is an apt description. They do multiple bake-offs throughout the day to keep product fresh and they round the menu out by roasting their own meats (brisket and pulled pork to name a few) and making all their sauces and aiolis for the sandwich section of the menu.
At the end of the day, Kolache Kitchen makes for a quick and affordable alternative to a sit-down breakfast or lunch, filling an underserved niche. “I thought there was a void in the New Orleans market for this kind of quick service restaurant,” Edwards explained. “There are a lot of amazing breakfast and brunch places, but if you don’t have an hour to spend and just want something quick there are not a lot of options.”
There is a good one now on Freret Street.
MEET THE CHEF
Will Edwards grew up in Houston, Texas where kolaches were a familiar sight. Like other business owners, such as the guys behind Pizza Delicious, Edward’s motivation stemmed from simply wanting the comfort food of his home to be available here. His first location near LSU’s campus was a hit and he expanded further in Baton Rouge from there. He’d had his eye on the New Orleans market for a while when the space on Freret Street became available. Now he’s using this store to test new products for his Baton Rouge store, creating a development loop that will grow the whole business.
Kolache Kitchen, 4701 Freret St., Uptown. B, L Daily, Thekolachekitchen.com.
Just across town on the other side of Tulane’s campus is Empanola, a new empanada-focused destination that offers variations on the stuffed pastries spanning Mexican, South American and even New Orleans cuisines (gumbo and crawfish etouffee, for example). All are baked and feature a flakier dough than Kolache Kitchen’s pastries.