Monday, April 2, 2012

Spicing Things Up in Kansas

Porubsky’s Grocery
508 NE Sardou
Topeka, KS

Porubsky’s Grocery is the kind of place that makes being a Suit in a Strange place such a cool gig.

Located literally on the wrong side of the tracks, next to a rail yard, in a decidedly blue collar long-forgotten section of Topeka, Kansas, no self-respecting person would ever venture into this dive – unless there was something really special going on here.

And that, there is, my friend.

Homemade chili!

In fact, plenty of self-respecting folks do venture here every day to chow down on chili, freshly sliced cold cut sandwiches and Porubsky’s famous spicy pickles.

Porubsky’s is still a working grocery and deli where blue collar Topekans have been coming since 1947 to buy bologna, chips and pop – as they call it here in Kansas.

But on weekdays during lunch time, folks crowd into the bar/dining room next door where multiple generations of the Porubsky family serve multiple generations of loyal customers.

Fortunately, Suits in Strange Places like me are welcome too, especially after Porubsky’s has virtually gone Hollywood, with a locally produced PBS documentary being filmed about the joint. (On sale at the cash register, in case you’re interested.)

Yep. Porubsky’s lunch rush this day was a good mix of blue collar, white collar, regulars and out-of-towners. All looking for a steaming bowl of that famous chili.

Only available from October to March, Porubsky’s chili perfectly reflects its well-balanced Midwestern heritage. The beef, beans and spice are prudently balanced.

Just enough spice to perk up your taste buds but not enough to offend any delicate fly-over-country palates.

And the chili enjoys the ideal ratio of meat to beans. Just the right amount of everything. In every bite.

While there is nothing exotic or outlandish about it, I can see why Porubsky’s chili earns such wide-ranging accolades.

My pastrami and Swiss on rye was notable for its mammoth size. More than a fist full of paper thin sliced meat piled high, the sandwich was mercifully cut into halves.

Served cold, this pastrami sandwich isn’t going to make any New Yorker reminisce about Carnegie Deli or Katz’s, but it has a nice freshly sliced taste to it. And at $3.50, it’s about the best lunch bargain I’ve had in a month!

Piled high in the middle of my paper plate between my two towers of pastrami sandwich halves was a mound of Porubsky’s world renowned spicy pickles.

Marinated in horseradish, mustard and hot peppers, these pickles packed a wallop.

I’m not really a pickle guy, but I was a good sport about it and downed a few – just for you, my loyal Suits in Strange Places readers.

Considering this was the only meal I was going to get today amidst three meetings and eight hours of driving across the Kansas countryside, I considered myself lucky to have stumbled into such a genuine old fashioned outpost of good eats.

World famous chili and pickles. And enough pastrami to cater a small Jewish wedding. All for seven bucks.

Yep. This is a pretty cool gig.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Porubsky's Grocery on Urbanspoon


  1. Maybe the best restaurant in our country ever!

  2. had allways heard of this place but never went & have lived in topeka 55 years... well let me tell u this i moved close about 2 years a go & omg its grate the food mmmmmmm & the size of the meat thats on a sam/witch i get them 2 go no one could ever eat 2 of them there the biggest & for less then 4 dolars..& very nice people.