CULT FOOD - PORUBSKY’S
By TRICIA PETERSON
Its location was prime real estate before the flood of 1951 because it was right down the street from the only bridge that crossed into the Oakland neighborhood. That neighborhood, down by the railroad tracks, west of the river, was home to a group of immigrants who were thought to be Russian but, in reality, were German. The confusion comes from the fact that the immigrant families had lived in Russia for a time before they traveled to Kansas, so the name of the area was misnamed “Little Russia.” The Porubsky family is one of the original German families who still live in the area today.
Most people in Topeka love Porubsky’s for its signature chili and hot pickles. The chili is only served starting the Tuesday after Labor Day to the last Thursday in April. So some people will only come in during the winter months because they want the chili and nothing else. Even during snowstorms and bad weather, people still show up for chili to go. Porubsky’s sells around 50 gallons of chili a day, during chili season.
Cecilia Porubsky can be found behind the counter, serving up beer and lunch on any given day. She’s the granddaughter of the original owners who had to rebuild after the flood. Porubsky’s started out as a neighborhood grocery store with a tavern on the side.
“We have a lot of people come in here with memories. A lot of them will come in here and say, ‘Where’s all the penny candy, you used to have penny candy,’ and I have to tell them we don’t have that anymore,” Porubsky said.
Porubsky says that the store has been the same since she can remember. People like to return to places where they not only know what to expect, but that also brings back nostalgic memories.
Jennifer Goetz loves Porubsky’s. Although she didn’t grow up as a regular, she has been converted into one. Goetz says that before she ever went there she would drive by and look at it and think to herself that there couldn’t possibly be a restaurant in that little building. Then one day, her friend told her about the chili and the hot pickles and that she just had to try it with him sometime. After that first visit, she was immediately hooked.
“I love that upon walking in, there were attorneys there, there were judges there, there were sinners there, saints there, you know, everybody was there,” Goetz said. “Some of them were having huge philosophical discussions, others were talking about their cases. Then there’s a guy at the bar who’s a pipe fitter, and another guy at the bar who’s 78 and it’s Wednesday so this is what he does.”
Porubsky’s can be addictive and it might just convert you, too.