It's Sunday morning at ten on the dot, and John Bogacki is serene as he braces for the impending chaos. Like a seasoned general standing in the face of the enemy's advancing front line, he casually chats with one of his guests. "See that really big church across the street?" he asks. "They are letting out right now. In a couple of minutes they're all going to be in here." He adds ruefully, "I keep telling myself that I asked for this."
But if Bogacki was asking for the advancing hordes, the residents of Crestwood were positively begging for a place like Yolklore. In recent years, throngs of young families have flocked to the southwest county suburb, drawn by its good schools and relatively affordable real estate. So many people want to live in Crestwood that the area's 63126 zip code was deemed one of the hottest markets in the country by Realtor.com last December.
No one is moving here for the food, though, and as the number of hungry mouths increased in the area, the options remained pretty much limited to the usual chain suspects or, if you were feeling more exotic, Chinese takeout or a handful of Americanized Mexican joints. Breakfast required a trek to Kirkwood or Webster Groves if you wanted something that wasn't served in a paper wrapper.
This explains the lines out the door, sometimes into the parking lot, every Saturday and Sunday at Yolklore. It's been like this since Bogacki, his wife Mary and their longtime friend Billy Oziransky opened in July, which is probably why John Bogacki can remain calm in the face of the storm: He's used to it by now.
But while the trio likely could have slung simple bacon-and-egg platters and still generated a robust response, a glance at their menu reveals serious ambition. This is not your average pancake house. The three are redefining the day's most important meal, with a menu as interesting as the town's upscale dinner spots. The fact they're doing so with a fast-casual setup and fairly cheap prices, serving up real housemade food in less than five minutes, is downright impressive.
You wouldn't realize this was a bastion of gourmet breakfast fare from the exterior, though — and that's if you could see it at all. Yolklore sits awkwardly in the back of a dated strip mall whose tenants include a vape shop and an Asian massage parlor. Inside, though, the small storefront that used to be King Edward's Fried Chicken has been transformed into a charming space with white wainscoting and eggplant-colored walls. Seating is mostly communal, with a line of stainless steel chef tables in the middle of the room in addition to a counter with stools lining one of the walls. Yolklore's branding is as impressive as its food, with bright folk art patterns painted throughout the room. Even the bathroom is whimsical, covered with a wallpaper design patterned with eggs.
The dining space is relatively small, but the open, subway-tiled kitchen is massive. Guests order at one counter, pick up at another when their name is called and can watch everything that happens in between. Even the massive prep-kitchen is in full view of patrons, with a large window providing a peak into the behind-the-scenes activities — and considering John Bogacki's charcuterie prowess, this is one kind of sausage-making that is fun to watch.
It's even more fun to eat. Yolklore's "Classic Breakfast," its most popular dish, ticks off all of the savory breakfast dishes you want but can never decide between: two farm-fresh eggs, your choice of breakfast meat, Yolklore's gloriously pepper-speckled griddle-smashed potatoes and a portion of biscuits and gravy. I didn't think I'd see the day where I turned up my nose at the magnificent Dailey's bacon, but John Bogacki's housemade sausage has stolen my heart. The ground pork, laden with garlic, sage and just a hint of pepper, comes as a patty the size of a respectable hamburger. It's the basis of the sausage gravy, which is rich without being gloppy. Mary Bogacki's flaky biscuits provide a magnificent canvas.
If I wasn't eating them, I'd love to rest my head atop Yolklore's pancakes, or "Big Dippers" as they call them, and drift off into maple-scented dreams. The fluffy hotcakes are the perfection of genre — crisp on the outside, yet so soft inside they almost have a custard-like texture. A slight essence of vanilla permeates these beauties.
Yolklore excels equally with its less traditional items. The signature "Nest Egg" would be at home in a white-tablecloth environment. Flaky dough, shaped into a round cup, forms a basket that holds two over-easy eggs and crumbled bacon. Pickled onions and pieces of preserved lemon cut through the richness, oozing yolks. The entire enterprise is reminiscent of a haute cuisine toad in the hole.
If the "Nest Egg" displays Yolklore's decadence, the "Pancake Rollup" is its firecracker. Two eggs, searing hot turkey chorizo, cheddar cheese and pickled jalapenos are drizzled with lime crema and folded into a crepe-like blanket. The spice is not for the faint of heart, but rewards anyone who can handle some forehead sweat.
The mushroom frittata was the only thing approximating a miss. Flavor-wise, the dish was a wonderful pairing of mushrooms, creamy goat cheese and a sweet tomato jam. The tough texture, however, seemed overcooked.
Each of the owners has a namesake sandwich — if it's supposed to reflect their personalities, Oziransky is the one you'd like to drink with all night long and then hit a greasy spoon with in the morning. His "Billy the Kid" is Yolklore's slinger: housemade ciabatta, that wonderful breakfast sausage, cheddar cheese, a gooey fried egg and a generous helping of mild meat and bean chili.
Mary Bogacki's refined "Mary B.E.A.R." is a luscious melt of brie, apple butter and pickled onions, while her husband turns a classic ham and cheese into the hysterically evocative "Johnny Ham Hands." A thick slab of ham steak, a fried egg and some spicy mayonnaise called "Devil Sauce" are nestled into a massive cheese puff. If this doesn't convince you to set your alarm clock for 7 a.m. tomorrow, there is something wrong.
Even without that, Mary Bogacki's pastries would be enough to drag me out of bed any day of the week. A former pastry chef for the Four Seasons, her blueberry-filled pop tarts, gooey butter cake (a contender for the city's best) and chocolate-salted caramel brownie are so good you'll be wondering whether you can ever enjoy breakfast without dessert again.
There's a lot you'll be wondering after eating at Yolklore. Why haven't we always stuffed ham into a massive cheesy pouf? What's wrong with a four-course breakfast? How do those pancakes manage to break the laws of physics by transcending solid and liquid? How do the Bogackis and Oziransky serve that many people without going bonkers?
One thing you won't wonder, though, is why that line is out the door every weekend. Instead, you'll be making plans to join it.
- PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
- Co-owners John Bogacki, Mary Bogacki and Billy Oziransky.