"Hey ma'am, can you help me out with a kolache?" A panhandler crouched on the curb outside Christy's Donuts in Montrose looked at me expectantly. It was the most Houston thing I'd heard in a while, a salvo for a native who feels increasingly out of place in the swarm of new inhabitants flocking to the city day after day. Unfortunately, I had just spent my last bit of cash buying a boudin kolache for myself inside the old donut shop, and I wasn't about to split it—no matter how much his request appealed to my indigenous nature.
1103 W. Gray St.
What I was carrying out to my car in a small, white paper sack appealed more anyway: a new iteration on an old favorite, the boudin kolache at Shipley Do-nuts, specifically the Shipley Do-nuts on N. Main St., where there's a rush on weekend mornings to grab up the last of the spicy boudin kolaches before they're all gone. This fusion of modern Czech klobasnek and old Cajun liver sausage is, itself, innately Houstonian, a creation that couldn't have emerged organically from many other places. Here, we are at the outer eastern edge of the Central Texas Czech empire and the far western outpost of displaced Cajuns, Creoles, and assorted other Louisiana expats, a lucky confluence of cultures.
For years, the Shipley boudin kolache stood on its own as the only member of its species. Sure, Peña's Donut Heaven down in Pearland recently began filling its kolaches with brisket from Killen's BBQ—but it wasn't boudin. Even Mexican bakeries like El Bolillo are now in the kolache game, but theirs are filled with tamer stuff: sausage, cheese, jalapeños. Christy's introduced its own boudin kolache several weeks ago, with absolutely no fanfare aside from the pure fact that its very existence challenges the previously unquestioned supremacy of the Shipley original.
The lack of fanfare seems to be deliberate, and extends to the provenance of the ingredients themselves. The boudin comes from Christy's wholesaler, the manager told me. "I don't know where they get it," he said. No recipe testing was done, he verified further. "We just wrapped the boudin in our kolache dough and started selling it." And despite the fact that the Christy's iteration of the boudin kolache is twice as big as the Shipley's version, it's the vaguely apathetic attention to these details that proves to be its downfall.
The kolache dough at Christy's isn't as good as Shipley's; it's a bit too greasy, too quick to collapse in on itself, and too quick to toughen up if you don't eat it fast enough. At Shipley's, the kolache dough straddles a line between an eggy yeast roll and Sheila Partin's sweet sourdough bread (another Houston original worth seeking out). It's soft and light and doughy, never tough or dense. And wrapped around a slightly spicy, highly livery piece of boudin it's a nearly perfect breakfast food—compact, portable, filling, cheap, and delicious.
This is not to malign Christy's, of course. The more that Montrose takes on the shape and feel of an entirely different neighborhood, the gladder I am that institutions like Christy's and their perpetually long lines remain intact—for now. Anyway, no other donut shop in town, Shipley included, competes with Christy's when it comes to a crispy-edged, heavily-glazed, old fashioned sour cream donut.