You know, once in a while you end up walking into something unexpected. The kind of gem that reminds you why you should just get in the car and drive every so often.
Because you never know when you’ll end up finding a place serving scratch-baked bread made with locally grown and milled wheat…that also served authentic, texas-style smoked meats (what???)…and Kolaches. Delicious, homemade Kolaches (think sweet bread with wild berry fruit filling).
Oh, and just happens to be next to an old stone mill by the sugar river…like the Paoli Bread and Brat Haus?
A Winter Expedition to Paoli
Winter storm (or not) I had already planned to drive Stasia to her haircut in Verona this morning. Even without a blizzard, any excuse to get coffee and take the “Stormtrooper” (aka my Subaru Legacy) into the snow is fine by me.
So, with less than an hour to explore on my own after dropping Stasia off, I decided to drive the 5 minutes down Highway PD and into Paoli for the first time.
Paoli, home of the “Visit Paoli: We’ve got everything but gas” bumper sticker, was predictably quiet for 8:30am. It felt like it was just me and the icy Sugar River as I crossed the garland covered bridge onto Paoli Rd.
But, on the other side of the river, in the shadow of the old Paoli Mill, I could see at least one “Open” sign.
The Paoli Bread & Brat Haus.
The Paoli Bread & Brat Haus. A Hidden Gem…of Kolaches and Smoked Meat
In case you haven’t guessed by now, The Paoli Bread & Brat Haus is the special place I was talking about.
Despite (or because of?) the blanket of fresh snow between me and the entrance to the Brat Haus, I ended up parking my car behind the Paoli Mill Terrace & Park. It was as close to the Sugar River as I could get and I didn’t mind breaking a trail.
Walking around the patio of the Hop Garden Tap Room, I made a mental note to come back in the summer. The whole Mill complex is a collection of yellow stone buildings that while beautiful in the cold winter morning, would probably be a hell of good place to grab a beer on a warm evening.
But, today, I wasn’t here for bread of the liquid variety. I was here for Kolaches and it was time to head inside.
As soon as I opened the door I knew this place was going to be interesting. A loaf of homemade bread was sitting on the counter, christmas music was playing, and the smell of baked goods filled the bright, one-room space.
The lone employee, Pat, came over to greet me from the stove where she was making a fresh batch of homemade hot chocolate (“No powders here.”, $1.50).
She was in here alone today because the owner, Cherri Bell and originally from Texas (hence the smoked meat), was making a batch of Kolaches to deliver for her friend’s birthday.
As we talked, I was amazed by the amount of personal connection they had to the ingredients. From the locally grown honey to the wheat her family grew and milled that went into that loaf of cinnamon bread ($7) sitting on the counter it seemed like just about everything they made had a story.
Did I mention the local wild berry Kolaches ($3) looked good?
I Can’t Do This Alone
At this point my hour was almost up and there was no way I was going to keep this place to myself. So I thanked Pat and headed back to Verona to grab Stasia.
Since I wanted her to be as pleasantly surprised as I was I didn’t tell her where we were going. I just said, “We’re going to a Hallmark Christmas movie.”
By the time we got back to Paoli, Cherri had arrived, and Pat warmly welcomed us back.
Two hot chocolates, a few pictures, a piece of smoked ham (amazing), 3 fresh baked kolaches, and some fitting life advice (“You just never know where life takes you. You just have to enjoy where it goes.”) later we were back on our way up to Madison.
So, next time you’re hankering for a quick winter adventure, you could do worse than to take a 15 minute trip south to Paoli. Say hi to them for us! And enjoy a Kolache or two (or three, or four…).