What qualifies as a kolache is a matter of some debate, but the working definition for most of Houston is some type of meat encased in fluffy, white bread or some type of sweet filling resting on top of the bread. Yes, that’s a wide spectrum. Technically, kolaches (or kolatches) are Czech in origin and only refer to yeast dough with a sweet filling—fruit, cheese or poppy seed. The meat-filled (usually sausage) kind is called klobasnek, but no one in Texas really calls it that.
The book paints a picture of a new American South, where Barbacoa is as Southern as barbecue and genteel ladies lunch on goat Halim at a Bangladeshi restaurant that shares space at a strip mall with a Latin Ballroom, a Chinese buffet, and a Mexican grocery store. It is a South where hungry lunch-goers scour the streets in search of the perfect Carne Asada and where the local Kroger stocks Sriracha, horchata, and ingredients for feijoada.
For less than the price of a downtown-Savannah cocktail, my blue Midwestern eyes widened as one of the sisters filled a Styrofoam clamshell with fried chicken thighs, mac and cheese, candied yams, and lima beans, all atop a golden hill of yellow rice—a turkey gravy river ran through it. After scooping up the last bite of syrupy-sweet yams, I leaned back with an audible creak in my chair to view my bloated abdomen.
People have been eating meatloaf, chicken noodle soup, and eggs here for over half a century at least, and Telephone Road itself is a storied place. Strike up a conversation with any rode-hard drinker in a bar, and he’ll tell you decades-old stories about Telephone Road. Both Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell have tribute songs named after it, honoring beer and sawdust covered honkytonks.
Watching Yates, who runs food to the dinner crowd, carry plates from the gray-and-white kitchen into the dining room is like watching Dorothy open the door of her recently upturned farmhouse onto Munchkinland.