Getting ready for my family bridal shower this weekend, my soon-to-be mother-in-law uttered two amazing words: “We’ll bake.” “We” means the extended network of grandmothers, aunts and cousins will craft all kinds of amazing Czech and Polish goodies typically only made for celebratory occasions. In Northeast Ohio (where I am from), attend an ethnic wedding and there’s sure to be a cookie table or two filled with ethnic sweets. (If you need to find me at one of these weddings, chances are I’ll be lingering by this table.)
So, what is a kolache? First, let’s settle the ethnic debate—these are Czech-style kolaches, not to be confused with other versions of the treat popular in Central Europe (other ethnicities do various renditions of folded dough and fruit). Kolache Republic’s sweet versions hail from a style popular in south Texas with a Danish-like dough, but less sweet. In the middle are sweet and fruit fillings.
“We make a slightly sweet yeast dough and use it for everything,” Sauer says. It’s the same dough in the sweet kolaches and in the savory lunch offerings. “It has the sweetness of a dinner roll. It’s not like a doughnut or Danish.”
Open for breakfast and lunch, the 800-square-foot space with seating for about a dozen offers a variety of sweet and savory flavors of this Czech pastry, especially popular in southern Texas. Sweet cheese and blueberry are two of the best sellers from a hearty list of daily offerings that also includes chocolate, poppy seed and almond. Keeping the start of Buckeye season in mind, they’ll also be offering a buckeye version, as well as pumpkin come fall.
Savory versions include kielbasa, as well as a daily rotating special. When I stopped in earlier this week they were serving a taco kolache. Posted as the special today is a braised Hawaiian pork kolache with onions, pickled jalapenos and roasted pineapple with cilantro-scallion relish. They’ve even got a vegetarian option—a mushroom flatbread with caramelized onions and parmesan.
Friends Rick Jardiolin, Dusty Kotchou and Sauer started Kolache Republic in 2010, initially making the treats at home to satisfy their own cravings (Jardiolin grew up in Texas and Sauer got a taste for kolaches while traveling for work). They started selling their kolaches at the Clintonville Farmers Market to sell out demand.
The recipe, Sauer says, came from Jardiolin’s sister in law who owns a kolache shop in Texas. She gave them her grandmother’s recipe (well, most of it, Sauer laughs) and the friends began tinkering with it, taking a year to perfect it.
For now, the plan is to continue to operate as a kolache specialty shop, but they could expand their offerings come the holidays to offer a few more European bakery items