When Vatsana Souvannavong moved to Houston from Los Angeles two years ago, she was confronted with a regional delicacy she'd never seen before: the kolache. In the chain of northwest Houston donut shops owned by her husband's family, the sausage-and-cheese "kolaches" (actually klobasneky, but that's a semantics discussion for another time) were just as popular as the donuts, to her great curiosity. Souvannavong doesn't like cheese, so these were admittedly lost on her, but peoples' passion for the kolaches wasn't.
"I started seeing kolaches everywhere," Souvannavong says. "In every donut shop." And an idea came to her: Why not transform one of her husband's family's shops into one that sold kolaches first and foremost? Husband Peacely Klam, whom Souvannavong calls her "kolache master" for the years he spent perfecting the just-sweet-enough dough at his parents' shops, was up for it; "donut master" Choune Ling, her father-in-law, was wary. "Where will you put the donuts?" Souvannavong recalls him asking. "In the back, where you usually put the kolaches," Souvannavong laughed.
After a short renovation during which she and Klam painted the interior and installed updated lighting and signage, Koala Kolache—as the shop was rebranded—was open for business in June. But West Coast-bred Souvannavong isn't your average kolache baker; you won't find traditional prune or cream cheese kolaches inside her glass cases. Instead, the Czech-based pastry reminded her of nothing so much as a sweet dinner roll base for scooping up comfort foods off your dinner plate, hence her initial creations: mac 'n' cheese-stuffed kolaches, scalloped potato-stuffed kolaches, kolaches stuffed with beef brisket and pulled pork.
At first, Copperfield residents were confused to find their "Simply Splendid Donuts & Kolaches" shop replaced by Koala Kolache and its unusual offerings. But it wasn't long before they were smitten by Souvannavong's ever-changing creations: kolaches stuffed with pepperoni pizza, broccoli-and-cheese casserole, Philly cheesesteak fixings, taco meat, jalapeños and cream cheese. Soon, the shop was selling out nearly every afternoon. "And school hasn't even started yet!" laughed Souvannavong when we stopped by in early August.
Still, the Langham Creek High School students whose campus is across the street have already sought out Koala Kolache, posing with their taco-stuffed kolaches and ice cream-stuffed donuts—another Souvannavong creation—on Instagram, lovingly referring to Souvannavong as their "crazy kolache lady." Even her father-in-law approves, known to grab a kolache or two himself when he stops by to help out during the day.
And while her increasingly popular "crazy" creations are entirely deliberate, Souvannavong admits the name of the shop itself is not. While texting a friend back in L.A. about her new dream to create a kolache shop, Souvannavong's iPhone kept autocorrecting "kolache" to "koala" (a truly Texan woe, on par with the iPhone's refusal to recognize "queso" as a word). "You should name the place Koala Kolache," her friend teased, and thus a delicious new Houston kolache destination was born.