Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sausages of West, TX

Update: I just learned from a reader (Thanks John) that Nemecek Bros. has closed for good. I called the Czech American that served their sausage and they confirmed saying that Nemecek’s has been closed since the spring. Czech American is now using locally made sausage from Tom’s Ole Czech Smokehouse on their menu.

11/16: It's not West Texas. It's West, Texas. This small Czech town a few minutes north of Waco is a popular stop for hungry travelers who want a quick handheld snack called a kolache. If you're unfamiliar, a kolache is a sweet roll with a fruit filling in the middle. Think a very thick and airy danish. Sometimes confused with the kolache is the klobasnek which is a sausage filled roll. In both Houston and Dallas, these are incorrectly referred to as sausage kolaches, but they have the terminology right in West.

Whether in or outside of the klobasneks, West is also home to a few sausage houses. Nemecek's is the most well known, but their early closing times on weekdays and lack of weekend hours have thwarted many of my attempts at patronage. I'm not suggesting they change their hours, it just sucks that most travelers through the area won't have a chance to buy their sausages from the historic market. Another option if you want some hot Nemecek sausages is to try the Czech American restaurant down the street that features them on their menu. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until a few days after my visit.

As for kolaches and klobasneks, the most popular stop is the Little Czech Bakery, aka the Czech Stop right off the highway. The parking lot is packed and the lines are long. If you brave it all you'll end up with the third best kolaches in West.

The sausage in the klobasnek was unfamiliar and not very memorable. The dough is good and sweet, but it's denser and more greasy than other options in town.

Just a block up Oak Street is the Ole Czech Smokehouse & Bakery, aka Gerik's. The cases of pastries on display when you walk in are a big contributor to over-ordering.

Inexplicably, the lines here are not usually long, but the kolaches are phenomenal. They also have a number of klobasnek options including ground sausage or hot links mixed with cheese or jalapenos or both. All sausage save the hot links are supplied by Tom's Ole Czech Smokehouse next door. A microwave is provided for the public to warm their own breakfast, but these pastries need only a few seconds. While the heft of the hot link is nice for a hearty meal, the regular sausage with cheese is a favorite of mine. The dough here is sweet, airy and rich without being greasy.

Tom's next door has sausage for sale and also makes a good jerky if you need to pack up some provisions for the rest of your trip.

Further down Oak Street across the tracks into the middle of town is the unassuming Village Bakery. Per their website, they were the first Czech bakery in the state when they opened in 1952.

Neither kolaches and klobasneks are on display here, but are instead fetched from the back after you order. Be sure to ask for them warmed. While the klobasneks use a very respectable sausage from Slovacek's, the dough can get a bit soggy. Not so in the kolaches which are always perfectly buttery sweet and soft. The blueberry is my favorite in town.

With Nemecek Bros. closed, I thought I'd try the sausage at this newer place called Nors Sausage and Burger House right in the center of town.

Not expecting much from a place with "Burger House" in the title, I was blown away by the quality of the sausages. These smoky links are accompanied by Czech fries (fried potato slices) and kraut. Without a doubt, this was some of the finest sausage I've eaten anywhere and Nors is a must stop for sausage fans who find themselves near this quaint town.

These links are house made and smoked over mesquite wood giving them a pungent smokiness. The meat was coarse ground and a bit loose in the snappy casings. A jalapeno cheese sausage had great kick from the chiles that went well with the black pepper. I brought home some of the original links, and they filled my fridge with smoky goodness until I cooked them the following night. I have some of their liver sausage in the freezer waiting for a special occasion.

- BBQ Snob


PM Summer said...

Nors: "Hippies use back door".

The biggest downside to Nors is running the risk of getting caught by a long train while trying to get back to I-35.

P.S. The burgers are quite good, too!

No One said...

Alas, Nemecek's has been a shadow of it's former glory for years now. The last time I was in there, they'd stopped making their bacon and there was a Hormel canned ham in the display case.

RJG said...

Awesome - I need to check a few of these out. Now if only someone would feature Parek v Rohliku's - the kind you can get anywhere wandering the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

cd0103 said...

Love Nemecek's ham! I have to order early to get a small one (less than 15 pounds). I have never been a Village Bakery fan. Must try the second place you wrote about soon! Love West, Texas.

MRL said...

Good tips on Nors and Gerik's, thanks. Tried both today and both are worth stopping in if you're passing through town. Truly some great smoke on that Nors sausage. Also I bought equal amounts of similar items at Czeck Stop and Gerick's, mostly klobasneks with a few kolaches thrown in, and Gerick's seems to be less expensive as well. Can't believe I've been driving by this town for years without stopping.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in West in the 80s Gerik's was (and I could be mistaken) was known as the Nors Bakery...even looked as though it does today. They made these pecan rolls (not a kolache) that were unlike anything I had or ever eaten to this day. In the early 2000s they had a website where you could order kolaches online and they still were making the pecan roll. It wasn't as good as I had remembered, but it had just traveled through the USPS! I wonder if Gerik's maintained those recipes?


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.