Tastes like a hug

Kolace Dough Co. & Eatery

Written by Joe Stumpe

Open a bag of Jaci Katz’s kolaches and you may wonder why no one’s produced them en masse in Wichita before.

The experience starts with breathing in the irresistible aroma of freshly baked bread. Next comes contact with the pillowy exterior, then finally the payoff of the delicious filling.

It tastes like a hug, at least according to customers flocking to Kolace Dough Co. & Eatery. Katz and her husband, Mike Watkins, opened the eatery named for its chief product earlier this year in the new Tyler Pointe center at 13th and Tyler.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback,” Katz said.

Pronounced “kuh-LAH-chee,” a kolache is a pastry that originated in central Europe and is particularly associated with Czechoslovakia. A kolache consists of a soft, semi-sweet dough surrounding a filling. Traditionally, that filling is sweetened fruit, but Katz has come up with a number of savory fillings that are flying off Kolace’s shelves as well.

Indeed, the bacon, egg and cheese kolache is the most popular choice for breakfast, while the chicken pot pie and barbecued pork versions outsell all others at lunch. Favorite sweet kolaches include apricot, blueberry and peanut butter, banana and honey.

Katz readily admits that she’s not an expert baker — or rather, wasn’t until she and Watkins got the idea for Kolace. The couple, who both have backgrounds in marketing, decided they wanted to open their own business, but only if they could “bring something into Wichita that was unique,” in Watkins’ words. After visiting a restaurant specializing in kolaches in Kansas City, they decided a similar concept would work here. After all, the city’s long had a love affair with a similar food, bierocks (more on the differences between kolaches and bierocks later).

Katz went through numerous test batches of doughs and fillings before she was ready to open, taking samples to neighbors, friends, family and Watkins’ office. Looking back, she realizes that was just a warm-up for the 26 dozen she produces on a busy day at Kolace.

The restaurant carries six sweet varieties (eight on weekends), six egg-based versions for breakfast and 11 more with meat fillings for lunch. Dipping sauces range from ranch and honey mustard to salsa and Nutella.

Katz and Watkins are finding that a big chunk of their business comes through their drive-through window, from people taking kolaches to work or get-togethers of friends and family. They suggest placing large orders 24 hours in advance.

Katz’s kolaches have prompted some interesting conversations as customers compare them to bierocks and kolackes made by Czech communities in other parts of the United States. Katz said bierocks are typically filled with a mixture of meat, cabbage and onion, a combination she’s purposely stayed away from. She also wasn’t interested in doing some traditional sweet kolache fillings based on prunes. She focused instead of flavors her test tasters enjoyed, a decision that seems to be paying off.

Kolace Dough Co. & Eatery
Tyler Pointe, 13th and Tyler

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