900 South 248 West, Salt Lake City
Johnny Kolache is a little coffee shop-sized pastry joint serving Czechoslovakian pastries in a number of fine and tasty ways. The white walls of the joint are covered with the enthusiastic autographs and mementos of many happy customers, though at first glance, it isn’t discernable that these aren’t the scrawls of the condemned or mad. If you want to add your own detail, the counter help is glad to offer a Sharpie for your use. Johnny Kolache might be the most intentionally unpretentious place in Salt Lake, and yet everything about the eats and the friendly help says that there’s a lot of pride behind this family and their homestyle food.
The building itself has the twentieth century-style, hand-painted graphics that give the whole thing a Mayberry feeling. The section of town it serves is simply tough, and one suspects that is part of why it closes around three. It shares a tough street with other strenuously individual restaurants, bars and even a strip club. What could be more Eastern European?
I found myself writing here on a couple of occasions—the place is quiet, sunlit on sunny days, comfortable and the Wi-Fi is fast and free. Of course, I had a couple of meals while I sat. The food is cheap, delicious and positively homey. For me, it’s like hanging with some neighbors as a kid and eating someone else’s mother’s cooking, which, you at first think is weird, but then really good. The food here is the kind of stuff you tell your mother she should try to make, and when you do, she throws up her hands and reaches for the peanut butter instead.
The Belly Buster Breakfast ($5.95) is what their website calls a Kolandwich (TM) or kolache bun filled with three cheeses, eggs, sausage, ham and bacon, with your choice of jalapeno, pickle, catsup or mayo. The sandwich, with its soft, slightly doughy bun, is a white trash hookup complete with Hank Williams records, breakfast beer and wet kisses served in a disarmingly neat package. The sandwich itself looks like a little brown UFO, but once it’s in your mouth, it’s a rowdy damn party.
The Breakfast Sliders, ($2.79) are just like the Belly Buster but smaller—a hot taxi ride with a rowdy mo-fo though the streets of Laredo. Oh yeah. Try it on for size.
There is a variety of lunch-style Kolandwiches available that come with a side of chips and a drink ($6.95)—a steal by lunch price standards in this city. You can get pastrami, a cheeseburger, chicken salad, pulled pork, ham, roast beef, BLT or, for many SLUG readers, veggie style. A sandwich on a fresh-made kolache bun is something you just haven’t had before, and when you do, you’ll probably be coming back for more.
Another amazing white trash food specialty offered on the menu is the Frito Pie ($4.45). A lunch-sized bag of Frito’s corn chips is cut open on one side like it is being field dressed, and then filled with delicious chili con carne, cheese, onions and jalapenos. This gesture goes all in: You can’t be neutral to a chili-stuffed Frito Bag. You’re charmed, permanently harmed or simply disarmed. I sat slack-jawed and wondered why I hadn’t ever thought of doing it myself. It’s worth the trip just to bring one of these little novelties back to the office to see the reactions of your coworkers.