The North Bend Eagle

 

Czech culture, food alive in Prague

by Nathan Arneal
Published 3/28/18

Step into the Kolac Korner in downtown Prague on a Friday night and you’ll be smacked with a heaping dose of Americana.

Kolach Korner
Beside the music from the live polka band, one of the first things to greet Kolac Korner patrons is a picture of original owner Adolph Nemec and his siblings, along with a bulacek T-shirt and the Czech and American flags. For a small fee, an actual bulacek of beer can be waiting for you, too. It goes well with the polka music.

Or rather, Czech-Americana.

There’s a three-piece band in the corner bellowing polkas and waltzes. Beneath the “oom-pahs-pahs” of the tuba rests the gentle hum of conversation over fried fish dinners in the nearly full dining room. The staff delivers huge, frosty chalices of beer affectionately known as “bulaceks.” A jovial priest shouts a request for the “Too Fat” polka from his table.

Prague takes pride in its Czech heritage, and perhaps there is no better manifestation in that pride than the Kolac Korner. The benches outside are painted to mimic the flag of the Czech Republic. Inside the walls are equal parts newspaper clippings from the glory days of Husker football, polka band promotion posters from years gone by and Czech paraphernalia.

If you ask nicely, and he’s not too busy, owner Mark Nemec may even break out his accordion and serenade you with a tune while you dine.

The story of the Kolac Korner is a classic tale of the American dream, with ample portions of Czech and Nebraska mixed in.

It started as a roadside stand near Prague – 12 miles south of North Bend on Highway 79 – on Nebraska football game days in the early 1980s. The Huskers were in the Big 8 and on TV only a few times a year. The rest of the games started at 12:30 p.m.

So Mark Nemec and his family, parents Adolph and Gladys and sister Debbie, would be up early.

“We’d get up early in the morning and put up a big, huge billboard sign on the side of the highway that said ‘Husker fans: free coffee, half mile,’” Mark Nemec said.

It started with handing out the free coffee and selling kolaces, apple strudel and cinnamon rolls made by Gladys and Debbie out of the back of a pickup — a literal tailgate party for Husker fans on their way to Lincoln.

After a while, the tailgate was repaced with table. Then a trailer. Roast pork sandwiches and sloppy joes were added to the menu.

The name evolved organically. It the days before cell phones, friends might tell each other, “I’ll meet you by the kolac corner by Prague” before heading down to Lincoln together.

 

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