Dining in West, Texas
Don and I made a lunch stop at Picha's, on the way to Fort Worth. It was worth it.
Old Royal Confectionary
Once inside, the history of the old building was clear to see. The building housed a confectionary, over 100 years ago. The old counter is original.
Pic From the Past
I liked seeing the old photo, reminding me of the building's history. Actually it looks like there are 2 counters. Maybe one was a soda fountain. I can see the old foot railing in both new and old photos.
Behind the first counter I could see a painting of the late, Patsy Picha. (pronounced PEA-ka) She and her husband Albin opened up the Czech-American restaurant in 1980. That's not all that old, compared to the building with it's exposed wiring and 2-blade ceiling fans... but the family recipes from Czechoslovakia, go way, way back. Luckily the Pichas had 6 kids, so the restaurant is still owned and run by family.
Cozy and Welcoming
We arrived near the end of the lunch hour, but Julie with her long braid and shorts greeted us with a big smile never made us feel rushed to eat up and get out.
Julie said she was a family friend of the Pichas. She said she'd been working at the restaurant for 6 years and she loved it. I believed her.
Watching from the Back
One young man carried huge "tubes" of chopped meat to kitchen from the back. I think Julie said it was for meatloaf.
The Daily Special!
I just had to order the daily special for $5.95! How is that even possible? My plate had roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes and lima beans, packed with flavor and lots of ham.
Don ordered the sausage plate that came with sauerkraut and Picha's special "Czech Fries". They were more like scalloped potatoes with yummy, sweet grilled onions. We were incredibly impressed with all the food and service.
Dessert to Go
We didn't have room for dessert, but took a couple of apple cobblers to go. Too bad Picha's does not offer Kolaches, or we could have taken some of those to go, as well. West is known as the Kolache Capital of Texas, but Picha's lets the other Czech bakeries in town serve up the traditional Czech pastry.
Lots of Czech Texans
There are nearly 200,000 Texans with Czech Heritage.
So that's why I needed to get some Czech food on the blog... And Czech bakeries are in abundance, especially in the Hill Country of Texas... And since we pass Hruska's on Hwy 71 driving from Houston to Austin about 30 times a year, why not stop and choose from 16 varieties?
First a Store
Hruska's today, is part gas station and part food/gift shop. But the family biz began as a store. The Hruska family has been in the business since 1912. This is a mural in the newly remodeled (3,000 sq ft larger) shop that sits next to the gas station. I wish it still looked like it did in the 1930's or 60's.
In the 1960's kolaches were made in the home of Adolphine Krenek who used her Czech family recipe as well as dairy from her livestock and poppy seeds from her garden. (the "old timers" still love the poppy seed kolaches best!)
Today Hruska's is a busy place! It seems every car on Hwy 71 stops for gas or food or to browse at the ever growing gift shop...filled with everything from Texas doodads to scrapbooking materials.
The gift shop is in fact so spread out that people browse themselves right into the large welcoming restrooms (also filled with sale items) It is a bizarre setup and more than once a man has wandered into the ladies room in a confused state!
Visiting with Mary
This is Mary. She has worked at Hruska's for 20 years. There have been lots of changes in this 100 year business, but even in 20 years Mary has seen quite a few. She used to help make the kolaches when they were hand scooped.
She helped make them across the road in a big house, but regulations changed that. She used to help grind the seeds in the popular poppy seed kolaches. Those seeds came from Adolphine's garden, and were much tastier than the seeds they purchase for baking today.
Here are just some of the 16 varieties!
Mary likes the cream cheese best. Of course the meat and cheese filled kolaches are a big hit.
The Kolache House?
Right across Hwy 71 is this old house. I'm guessing this is the home Mary was pointing towards when she mentioned making kolaches.
It's kind of fun to imagine this old farm with dairy cows and poppies in the garden. Even Teri, who owns Hruska's now, started helping make kolaches when she was 11. It was her great grandfather who opened up the first Hruska's in 1912.
These are not tiny bugs nibbling at the corner of my kolache. This is gooey poppy seed paste, oozing out of the center of my kolache.
That's a lot of poppy seed! And evidently eating poppy seeds can lead to a positive drug test. Hmmm. That got me wondering about the poppies that grow in neighborhood gardens...
And I learned?
And since I now try to make some kind of discovery from every dining adventure, I took this whole poppy thing a bit too far. Since I was in the passenger seat as we traveled Hwy 71, I spent 90 minutes googling on the iphone to find out why we can grow poppies in our yards if they can create opium. Well I won't go into the details of all I learned, but there is a ridiculously long article about poppies and opium and... "One Gardener's Encounter with the War on Drugs"
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.