Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Porubsky's: A Taste of Topeka History



I ventured down to Porubsky's, in Little Russia, on the outskirts of Oakland in the northeastern part of Topeka for an article I'm writing for TK Business Magazine. I decided I should order some food, just in case I decided to write a review. Of course, my experience was a memorable one so I had to write about it.


The full name is CW Porubsky Grocery and Meats, but most people just call it Porubsky's. Even though the area was populated by Germans before the Great Flood in 1951, people called them Russians because a group of them had previously settled in Russia, and the area became known as "Little Russia". People still call it that today. The restaurant and grocery has been here since 1947, and at that time main bridge to the Oakland part of Topeka was right there, instead of to the North, where it is today. Then in 1951 the flood came along and destroyed the bridge, but it didn't destroy Porubsky's.

If you mention Porubsky's to anyone in Topeka they will immediately talk about one of two things, the hot pickles or the chili. For me, it's the chili. Monday through Thursday, Sept. 1 to April 1, they make it fresh daily, which means, next week there won't be any more chili until September! I just realized this as I was typing it and it makes me a little sad inside. A lot of people like the hot pickles, but I'm not much into hot pickles, my favorite are dill and bread and butter and I'm not much into spicy foods. Although, over the years that is changing some.

The chili definitely is one of a kind and so good. It's got beef and beans and so many spices and seasonings I could't tell you exactly what is in it, but whatever it was, it was tasty and I can't say I've ever had chili like it. It comes with a slice of cheese on top, saltine crackers and a cup of raw onions on the side. I got a little slice of a hot pickle, too, but not a whole one, I honestly am not a big fan of horseradish and that's what they use to make these particular pickles hot. It wasn't as bad as I'd remembered the last time I tried one, but I don't think I'll be ordering one any time soon. The chili,
however, I will be back this fall for another bowl.

Their menu has more than just chili, and there's an entire deli on the other side of the store. Deli
sandwiches and a cold plate, and in the summer a special hoagie sandwich replaces the chili. I'm not sure where else in town you can get a pastrami on rye from a local restaurant, where it's sliced fresh daily. Please enlighten me if you know of a place.

When I was in there today, not only was I interviewing Cecilia Porubsky but there were a couple of students from Washburn University there interviewing her, too. They were asking questions about the history of the deli and I got to hear some interesting stories about the flood and the people who lived in the area who have supported the deli over the decades. Cecelia said that about 75 percent of the people who come in are regulars and the rest are people from out of town who have read or heard about the place from people raving about the food. Kansas state legislators and law makers come in during the legislative session on the regular and people venture out into the snow and sleet to get chili for home. If you haven't been to Porubsky's, you're truly missing a wonderful experience. The people and the food will keep me coming back every time.