Nashville is stocked with many a transplanted Texan, along with plenty of touring musicians who've done more than their time traversing long Texas roads. So kolaches -- a sometimes sweet, sometimes savory Czech/Slovak pastry that's become a beloved delicacy in lots of small Texas towns -- weren't unfamiliar here. Kolaches were, however, pretty impossible to find around these parts up until Yeast Nashville opened its doors in 2013.
Thanks are due to Yeast-ers Bill and Sara LaViolette, whose Woodland Street bakery quickly became a Music City kolache-lover mecca and an East Side favorite. Kolaches are indeed the specialty (from traditional sweet Bohemian style to cheesy/meaty Tex-Czech style), but those pastries aren't the only offerings at Yeast Nashville. Fresh-baked breads, muffins, pies, cinnamon rolls and other treats join daily specials and soups and local coffees and teas.
As lovers of great local food -- and Yeast Nashville's food, specifically -- we figured it was time to thank Bill and Sara for bringing their kolache skills to Nashville, via a quick chat about their history, their neighborhood and those fine kolaches.
The East Nashvillian: What initially drew you toward kolaches?
Bill LaViolette: "Because we missed eating them! Before moving to Nashville in 2008, I lived in Texas for most of my life. Kolaches are huge there due to the state’s large Czech population and kolache shops are as common there as donut shops (or a combination of both). After moving here, Sara and I started making them for ourselves and friends (some of whom were adamant that we should sell them). in late 2012, Sara got news that she was going to be laid off from her job at the beginning of 2013, so after 20 minutes of soul searching and panic, we decided to become kolache bakers!"
What's your baking background?
"Sara's the baker and had never done it professionally until we decided to start Yeast Nashville. Before going pro she was a fantastic 'amateur' baker and did spend a couple of years baking and decorating cakes as a hobby/side job. I handle the marketing and dishwashing duties, both of which I have done professionally at various points in my life."
What's your personal favorite Yeast Nashville menu item, and why?
"I have to narrow it down and pick just one thing on the menu? That's not fair, so I'll give you something that's an everyday item and something that winds up as a special from time to time.
"The everyday item is our Jalapeño Sausage & Cheese Kolache. That's what got me eating kolaches in the first place, plus we make it with sausage we get from Meyer's Smokehouse in Elgin, Texas, so every time I eat one it's like taking a little trip back home via my tastebuds.
"As far as the specialty items go, right now I'd have to say it's the Buttercup Squash and Apple Muffin with Streusel topping. Ho-ly smokes do I love that muffin! The Buttercup squash is a hybrid between an acorn squash and pumpkin, so it's got this really rich nutty taste to it. Pair that with some diced Granny Smith apples and a crunchy, sugary top and you've got yourself a winner.
"There is a caveat to this, though... Most of the time I don't know what Sara's going to bake for the day until the morning of and these 'favorites' could easily change once the sun comes up tomorrow! To me this is one of the most fun things about our bakery. While we've got a tasty foundation of regular items you just never know what you might discover when you come in to the shop."
What made you choose East Nashville to launch Yeast Nashville?
"Well, we've lived in the neighborhood for five years now and I personally have never felt as at home as I have in East Nashville. When this opportunity presented itself there was really no other place we'd rather have done this than in our neighborhood.
"To me, East Nashvillians have this atypically strong commitment to supporting small, locally owned businesses because they see them as, for example, 'Bill and Sara's Bakery' and not just some business that has decided to set up shop here to capitalize on the 'hotness' or 'trendiness' of East Nashville, so to speak. A significant portion of the folks you see behind a mixer, fixing your sink, or crafting a hula hoop in East Nashville are also the same people you'll see at the Inglewood Kroger, the Jere Baxter post office, or walking their dog down Rosebank because they live and work in the neighborhood. That really means something to us, as East Nashville residents and new small business owners in the neighborhood.
"One of the things I was most excited about when Sara and I decided to take on this adventure was getting to meet and interact with our neighbors on a regular basis as I had spent the past five years working out of my house as a freelance graphic designer. The other key component was the name. 'Yest Nashville' and 'Yeastboro' simply didn't have the same ring to it as 'Yeast Nashville.'"
You've been teaming up with some other locals for your creations -- Nola Granola, Yazoo Brewing Company... What inspires those Nashville-centric menu collaborations?
"This is two-fold, really. The first is that they are, as you say, Nashville-centric items and anytime we can incorporate ingredients that are native to our area I love that. It is absolutely amazing what is going on culinarily in this city! Whether it's Tru Bee honey, Yazoo, Nola Granola, Edley's BBQ, et al -- these uniquely Nashville ingredients help us create items you won't find anywhere else but at Yeast Nashville.
"Secondly, there's a commonality between these products and Yeast Nashville -- we're all locally owned small businesses. Sara and I have been very lucky during this Yeast Nashville journey for the support and guidance that several small, locally based businesses provided us over the past 12-13 months. As such, we're committed to doing whatever we can to help other small businesses in the neighborhood succeed."
Support a small local business and treat your tastebuds with a stop at Yeast Nashville, 805 Woodland St., Suite 300. Hours are 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. YN is closed on Tuesdays. More information -- including menu items and more on the history of kolaches -- can be found on the Yeast Nashville website.