Mention kolaches outside Texas state lines, and you’ll likely receive blank stares. But ask a local to name their favorite spot to grab the sweet or savory pastry, and you’ll stir up a fierce debate on the merits of Hruska’s versus Czech Stop. Originally introduced to central Texas by 19th-century Czech settlers, kolaches were almost exclusively found in highway-facing bakeries, gas stations and doughnut shops. Now they’re making a modern-day comeback, popping up in some of Austin's top fine-dining restaurants and its best food trucks. We tracked down our favorites in Austin—and no, they’re not by Interstate 35.
Best kolaches in Austin
In August, brothers Noah and Josh Lit opened Batch, Austin’s first kolache-focused bar. Pastry chef Jasmine Jones developed the dough using King Arthur Flour, organic sugar and local honey, as well as seasonal fruit and Micklethwait Craft Meats brisket and sausage to fill the pastry. Order Batch’s signature flavor, made with brisket, pickles and Swiss cheese, then switch to a caramel apple or a sweet cream and spiced pumpkin version for dessert.
When Callie Speer launched her irreverent downtown diner, Holy Roller, she and pastry chef Britt Castro developed an outrageous migas kolache to put on the menu. But they also serve simpler and more traditional kolaches from their takeout window in the mornings. Holy Roller’s open-faced kolache is stuffed with migas, queso and crispy hash browns, then sprinkled with fresh jalapeño and cilantro. Leaning more toward sweet? Try the gooseberry and cream or persimmon and cocoa. “I really like all of the fruit kolaches,” says Speer. “Like, I wouldn’t kick any of them out of bed.”
Amelis Kerlin started making kolaches as a way to utilize any leftover brisket at Kerlin BBQ, the trailer she runs with her husband, Bill. Not only did leftovers become increasingly rare, but the kolaches were such a hit that they now smoke extra briskets just to fill what Amelis calls their “very artisanal, delicate Hot Pockets.” Bill says the sausage and cheese kolache is, hands down, the best thing on his menu. You’re also in luck if Amelis happens to make one of the vegetarian variations, like roasted red pepper with goat cheese.
“Next to the breakfast taco, [the kolache] might be the most Austin thing I can think of,” says chef-partner Mark Buley. The Odd Duck team is constantly experimenting with new kolaches, from an enriched egg-and-potato–based dough to another using white Sonora wheat, locally milled at Barton Springs Mill. The fillings change as frequently as the rest of the menu, which relies on the fluctuating bounty of local farmers and ranchers. You’ll find seasonal variations like smoked shiitake mushroom and goat cheese, peach and scamorza, and pig-face carnitas.
Pastry chef Kendall Melton whipped up kolaches as decadent snacks for Contigo’s line cooks years before adding them to the regular brunch menu. Now the rest of us can enjoy Melton’s delicious dough pillows, both savory and sweet, made with the season’s best ingredients. Contigo's vast selection of charcuterie leads to unique kolache creations like pork rillettes with chili oil roasted corn. Autumn brings treats like sweet potato with homemade marshmallow.
If you’ve enjoyed pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s dessert creations, you should see what he can do with a kolache. Emmer & Rye’s pastry chef creates a delicate dough, using freshly milled white Sonoran wheat, and stuffs each roll with the season’s best fruits. Currently on the menu: prickly pear kolaches with cream cheese frosting and Sonora streusel.