It’s autumn in Kansas, a time when thoughts turn to pumpkin patches, steamy apple cider, corn mazes, and crisp air.
Oh, and those heavenly little meat pies stuffed with ground beef, cabbage, onions and spices, courtesy of our Volga German ancestors.
Bierocks are a Kansas dish, and Kansans love them. But if they try to get them outside of the state (save Nebraska, where they’re more commonly known as runzas) they’ll likely be met with puzzled stares.
Though they’re Kansas’ favorite German food, they’re not served in Germany. Manu English, owner of the German food truck Let’m Eat Brats, said that when she visits her native Germany, her relatives ask her what she makes on her food truck.
Bierocks, she tells them, are her No. 1 seller, and she moves dozens a day.
“Bierocks?” they say. “What are bierocks?”
“They’ve never heard of them,” she said. “But when I make them, they like them.”
According to food lore, bierocks are an Eastern European invention that were popularized in the United States in the 1880s by German Russian Mennonite immigrants who settled in Kansas. They were a practical necessity, really. Wives wanted to take their husbands who were working in the fields a hearty but portable lunch, and bierocks worked just fine.
In Wichita, bierocks are served at a long list of restaurants, each of which makes them with their own twist. (Wichita even has a restaurant devoted solely to bierocks – M&M Bierock, previously known as Bierock Kitchen, at 2065 E. Central.)
All use yeast dough, though some add cheese. Some bake them in a round shape. Some make them rectangular.
Mary Morain, who has run M&M Bierock since 2007, makes her bierocks in a rectangular shape, and her beef and cheese version is her most popular, she said. She also offers “original,” with just beef, cabbage and onion, plus a ham-and-cheese version.
The restaurant, which is a drive-through only establishment, is a big draw for Wichita’s big bierock- loving community, Morain said. Her customers are crazy for bierocks, and she’s happy about it, even though she doesn’t get it – and she doesn’t eat them.
“I don’t really like cabbage,” she said with a laugh.
Here is a list of places Wichitans can buy bierocks. I’ve also included my favorite simple bierock recipe. Just remember: ALWAYS eat your bierocks with a side of spicy mustard for dipping.
Bierocks in Wichita
Bagatelle, 6801 E. Harry: This bakery serves a bierock stuffed with seasoned ground beef, cabbage, cheese and sauteed onions. It’s served with a side of soup or salad.
Charlie’s Pizza Taco, 602 N. Tyler Road: This restaurant, which originally started in Pratt, also has a food truck and serves bierocks stuffed with cabbage, sausage and ground beef.
College Hill Deli, 3407 E. Douglas: This restaurant calls its bierock a “bierock pie” and makes it with ground beef, onions, herbs and cheese.
Delano’s Diner, 1220 W. Douglas: Kassem Yassine’s new restaurant serves bierocks filled with beef, onions and American cheese.
Let’m Eat Brats, food truck: Bierocks are the most popular item at this food truck, owned by German transplant Manu English and her husband, Austin. They outsell everything else on the truck. English’s bierocks are round, and she serves them without cheese.
M.I.F. Deli, 5618 E. Central: This Mediterranean restaurant makes several savory pies, including spinach feta and meat-and-cheese. And it also serves bierocks.
M&M Bierock, 2065 E. Central: This drive-through-only restaurant serves bierocks with or without cheese plus a bierock-like ham-and-cheese meat pie.
Bieroks as a special
Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg: This favorite Wichita diner serves bierocks as an occasional special about once a month.
The Pumphouse, 825 E. Second: This bar and restaurant offers bierocks as a special every Monday.
The Kitchen, 725 E. Douglas; This downtown restaurant offers bierocks as an occasional special.
Bierocks in Newton
The Breadbasket, 219 N. Main, Newton: In addition to serving Friday- and Saturday-night German buffet, this Newton restaurant also has bierocks on the menu at lunchtime every day.
WTB, food truck: Chris Young, who owns the 701 Cafe in Newton, is working on a food truck that will specialize in classic bierocks and twists on bierocks with different fillings. It’s called WTB, which stands for What the Bierocks. Though he’s still working on the truck and plans to have it open in the spring, he’s taking it to various festivals in the meantime. He’ll have it at the Newton Blues, Brews and BBQ event on Oct. 7.
1 pkg. (24-count) frozen yeast rolls
2 medium onions, chopped
21/2 to 3 lbs. ground beef
3/4 head cabbage, chopped
Shredded sharp cheddar (optional)
Spicy brown mustard
Set rolls out to rise per package instructions. Brown onion and ground beef together. Drain. Return to skillet and add cabbage. Cook until cabbage is wilted and soft, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
When rolls have risen, roll each one out individually to about a six-inch diameter. Place about 1/4 cup of meat mixture in the center. Top with cheese. Pinch closed and place pinched side down on a greased cookie sheet. Bake until the bierocks begin to brown on top - about 20 minutes.
Serve with a side of spicy brown mustard for dipping.