Opening a new business is empowering and exhausting. When we’d heard that there was a new independent kolache shop opening in Cypress, the idea of trekking midday from our Montrose office out to the suburbs of Northwest Houston was daunting. It was the teasing of flavors like rebel chorizo (below) and portobello Boursin that got us thinking we could certainly find a time to check out Koala Kolache.
If you’re familiar with the Koala Kolache name, you’re probably thinking of the donut-turned-kolache shop on FM 529 that now goes by the name of Karma Kolache. Vatsana Souvannavong (photo below) had helped rebrand the long-time donut shop at this location into Koala Kolache in 2016. Unfortunately the partnership behind the concept did not work out, and Vatsana took the rights to the Koala Kolache concept when the assets were divided.
For the last few months, Vatsana has worked long hours testing recipes and remodeling the space at 14502 Spring Cypress Road (near Louetta). In her arsenal of recipes that had already proven to be a success in the past are traditional kolache flavors like peach, kumquat, strawberry and cream cheese. Vatsana makes each of the kolache fillings from scratch daily (shown below), using local ingredients – many from local purveyors. “I’m a farmers market girl,” she told us, showing us around the kitchen of Koala Kolache.
If it’s the savory kolaches you prefer (technically known as klobasnek), you’ll be interested in the chorizo and egg combination that features Houston-made chorizo from a Mexican family here in town. On our visit, we also tried vegetarian black bean enchilada, chili cheese and the aforementioned portobello and Boursin combination. The menu will showcase a selection of standards or classic flavor combinations, and specialty flavors will be available seasonally. After the grand opening, prices for all items will start at $2.50.
But what about the donut counterpart?
Her secret weapon, she told us, is her grandfather. “He’s the donut master, and I couldn’t do it without him,” says Vatsana.
Donut-making begins at 2:30 every morning. While Vatsana allowed us into her kitchen and explained her process, she asked us not to share key secrets to the remarkably light texture of the donuts and not-too-sweet glaze.
Other things were heating up in the bakery while we were interviewing Vatsana, too. In typical snafu form – many restaurant owners will relate – Vatsana’s inspector never showed up to give the final go-ahead and allow her to sell her products. She’d been connecting with the health department regularly, but an error on their end mistakenly tied her permit number to a completely different business. Koala Kolache had already promoted their official opening as being Thursday, June 15, through Sunday, June 18, with a special deal of just $2.99 for a dozen of their glazed donuts. Without the proper permit, they’d not be allowed to sell their product to the public. Vatsana, who slept on a cot in her back office the night before, decided that if her permit did not arrive in time, she’d just give donuts away. And, yesterday, Koala Kolache gave away 2,500 donuts. They’ve since been permitted.
While showing us the reclaimed wood she’d personally stripped that surrounds the service area and the restaurant details she’d chosen and made herself – like the massive floral frame hanging on the wall behind us, covered in thousands of silk flowers – she casually mentioned that a week earlier she’d been working on readying the store for opening and while at the shop, her home was burgled. The single mom and entrepreneur didn’t even skip a beat while telling us that her Chanel bags and safe had been stolen. “Here, try this one – it’s amazing!” she exclaimed while interrupting her own story to hand us a donut. “How do you stay so strong during all this?” I asked, stuffing my mouth with a hot, fresh donut slathered in espresso icing. “My son keeps my strong,” she said, smiling.
If ever a woman were robbed of her Chanel bags and was raising a son solo while trying to open a restaurant, an over-indulgence of donut eating would be understandable. In this case, Vatsana was the one bringing out donuts for us to try, with beautifully plated specials like strawberry shortcake donuts (photo above) and cream cheese and guava-stuffed cruller sandwiches (photo below). “I guess this thing is sort of like a stuffed cronut?” she said while watching us munch our way into a food coma.
Other donut flavors you can expect are orange cream-stuffed with hefeweizen glaze, maple with bacon and Thai tea with condensed milk glaze, a nod to her Thai and Laos ethnicity.
Koala Koffee – a custom blend supplied by Katz Coffee – is also served. Gluten-free and vegan options will soon make their way to the menu, too. The kolache and donut shop will also be implementing a program called Koala Kids where students can bring in a report card proving that they’ve made good grades at school and earn free donuts.
If you’re feeling down and out, remember that there is a friendly face and treat waiting for you at Koala Kolache. There is a good chance that things are going to climb high for Vatsana and the Koala team, and we hope they expand to a location inside the Loop soon.
Koala Kolache 14502 Spring Cypress Rd., Cypress, 281-246-1579 koalakolachebakeryhouston.com
Hours: Tue. through Sun,. 6 am – 8 pm. (Closed Mondays)