Happy Sparrow brings traditional Czech treat of kolaches to Waluga
Just as we head into the dark days of winter, a bright and cheery dining oasis has opened in Lake Oswego's Waluga neighborhood. Danny and Mary Quach have opened Happy Sparrow on Jean Road and invite all to drop in for a cup of coffee or chai and a kolache.
What are kolaches? They're pastries made of soft, sweet dough that are filled with sweet or savory foods. A recent menu included the Happy Bird, filled with sausage, egg and cheese; another filled with potato, egg and cheese; and another filled with bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese.
The Texas Hot Link is filled with Zenner's pork sausage, jalapenos and cheddar cheese; the Lox of Love is filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill; a vegan offering is filled with carrots, celery and other vegetables in a plum base; sweet kilaches include chocolate and cinnamon; and others filled with Nutella, raspberries and strawberries and cream cheese.
Kolaches range in price from $3 to $5, and the menu will change regularly.
The Quaches originally opened Happy Sparrow in 2009 in Portland's Belmont neighborhood, where they built a strong following for the traditional Czech treat.
The couple grew up eating kolaches in their home state of Texas, and they delighted in the adaptations that Texan chefs made to include local favorite ingredients, like sausage and jalapeno peppers.
In the midst of the recession in 2009, the couple decided to leave the security of family and comfortable careers to join Portland's food scene and bring kolaches to Oregon. They had no food industry experience, just a faith that it was the right path for them to take.
"We grew up eating kolaches, so we knew others would like them," Mary Quach said. Using a traditional Czech recipe from a family friend, the couple opened Happy Sparrow and shared the taste treat.
"We took a leap of faith and moved to Portland to start a restaurant," Danny Quach said. "We had no prior food experience, other than knowing we loved kolaches and knew Portlanders would, too."
The name Happy Sparrow reflects the many passages in the Bible that refer to sparrows not being forgotten by God. The couple has a solid conviction that they are not forgotten, either.
They added a Northwest flair to their offerings, developing a vegan option and many vegetarian versions. Business has been strong, they say, and they have developed relationships with vendors such as Petunia's Pastry and Pies to provide gluten-free pastries and Mount Hood Roasters to provide their coffee.
"We like to support mom-and-pop businesses," Danny Quach said. "We like to share in symbiotic relationships."
When it came time to renew their Belmont lease, the Quaches say their landlord planned to double the rent. They began searching for a new location, but kept coming up empty-handed.
"We knew we had outgrown the space, but we couldn't find anything that was suitable. We had almost decided to move back to Houston," Mary Quach said. "We had 97 percent decided to do that, but something held us here. We didn't want to give up unless it was our call."
Danny found the listing for their current location on Craigslist. It didn't have a photo, but they both liked the idea of being in an A-frame building, so they investigated. The location on Jean Road — which has been home to Speedy Linguini and Oliver's, among others — turned out to be just what they wanted.
Since Happy Sparrow opened in the new location Sept. 18, business has been brisk.
"The neighborhood has been so supportive," said Danny. "We have families coming in, and even kids after school drop in."
"It's heartwarming to already have regulars," said Mary. "And our baristas know their drinks. It's a great place to spend time and a great, safe place for kids to come, too."
Happy Sparrow, which is located at 5405 Jean Road in Lake Oswego, has a warm and inviting ambiance. It's open from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 503-305-5968 or just stop by for a warm kolache and a cup of coffee.