"So what do you ladies think of the Czech Stop?" I'd just ordered a couple of kolaches from the Village Bakery in West and was waiting for them to heat up in the back. The Village Bakery opened in 1952. Thirty years later the Czech Stop opened up down the road and much closer to the highway. The location was perfect, and 30 years after that there's a constant line of hungry customers at multiple counters at the gas station that serves the pillowy pastries.
I was one of them. I'd stopped in on my first trip to Austin earlier this year, because hitting the Czech Stop seemed the thing to do. The billboards along Interstate 35 call you the whole way down from Dallas. The Czech Stop is a must stop, right?
"They're good at what they do," the woman with glittering lavender eye shadow said as she took my credit card. It was an obvious set up, so I took the bait and asked.
"They sell gas," she said, her face as serious as a pastry-induced heart attack.
They sell a lot of kolaches too, but it's a shame more of the drivers zipping down the highway don't realize they're missing out on a much better snack not more than a mile out of their way.
Village Bakery's dough is so much better than Czech Stop's you can see the difference before you even pick them up. It has a light, airy quality with a deep brown crust that gently yields when you take a bite. The fillings I tried (sausage and cheese) are of higher quality and more generously applied, and the ladies working the counter have a lot more personality.
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I was about to ask them more, when a second woman announced a passing school bus like a battle cry. "The bus tour is here!" She bellowed, and seconds later a steady steam of crumb snatchers poured through the front door. The place was packed with school kids and stress levels were high. I let the ladies get back to their work and got back on the road.
If you're driving south for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and avoid the first kolache stand you see. Gerik's is on Main street just past the Czech Stop, and further in town, next to the Village Bakery, a number of other restaurants and bakeries line the streets.
They don't call West the kolache capitol for nuthin'.
Village Bakery, 113 East Oak St. Gerik's Ole Czech Smokehouse, 509 West Oak St.