When Blanka Ly looks up a recipe, it has nothing to do with Google. She doesn’t need her phone or an internet connection to check on how much cinnamon goes into her favorite recipe for cinnamon rolls or how to make the apple filling for apple strudel. Ly’s recipes come from her great-grandmother, who lived in what is now the Czech Republic. Passed down for generations, Ly is now baking with her family’s recipes for Little Prague Bakery in West Seattle.
In 1999, Ly’s mother opened the family business, baking her grandmother’s classic Eastern European recipes. When she eventually retired, Ly took over to continue Little Prague’s success of delighting us with flavors of the Czech Republic in both their storefront and at local farmers’ markets. From the sweet deliciousness of a poppy seed strudel to the hearty Hungarian goulash with dumplings, Little Prague is as authentic as it gets.
For Ly and her team, it’s all about community and connection. The sweet and savory that comes from Little Prague Bakery focuses on using local ingredients, creating a positive experience for the community, and honoring the Czech recipes.
“The best part is when we were serving meals at the bakery, and I would get a plate back that had been basically licked off,” Ly said. “So I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they love it.’ That’s the best reward I have.”
For those who are new to the incredible cuisine from Eastern Europe, Ly has some must-try recommendations. Start with Little Prague’s best-selling kolaches, a sweet bread with a center filling. Cream cheese is the traditional filling, but there’s no harm in trying the apricot, cherry, or poppy seed. The special kolaches are a perfect combination of cream cheese with fruit, such as blueberry or caramelized apples.
On the savory side, Ly says everyone needs to taste the Hungarian goulash, a slow-cooked beef stew. Little Prague serves this dish with homemade steamed bread dumplings.
All of this is available at the bakery’s home in West Seattle, but Little Prague is huge in the farmers’ market scene. Most weeks, they hang out at seven different markets throughout the week. Ly said her entire family is used to scheduling life around farmers’ markets, but that’s ok with her; she loves seeing customers and fellow vendors at the markets each week.
“I connect with my customers. Even if they don’t come and buy stuff, they will stop by and say hello,” Ly said. At a recent Sunday market, a man buying cherry strudel explained he’s been enjoying Little Prague pastries for over 10 years. When he was young, he would ask his parents for cherry strudel for each birthday. “He said no Sunday would be complete without Little Prague.”
For Ly, her fellow market vendors are equally as important as customers. Whenever possible, Little Prague Bakery uses produce, eggs, honey, and flours from local vendors.
When the pandemic halted some farmers’ markets, Ly said some fellow vendors were struggling and she offered them space in the Little Prague storefront to sell their goods. “We had flowers, we had eggs, we had meat, we had fresh pasta, all vendors we work with at the market,” Ly said. “They’re like family, and I knew I couldn’t let them go.”
Family is a thread that runs deep at Little Prague Bakery. From passing down recipes for four generations to watching generations of families come to enjoy their famous kolaches, Ly said she’s passing on her knowledge to her children and grandchildren.
If you haven’t tried the flavors from Eastern Europe at the Little Prague bakery, your weekend homework is to try the Nutella Choco Walnut Roll. We care about your happiness in life, and this is a sure-fire path to pure enjoyment.
Little Prague Bakery is located at 6045 California Ave SW. It’s open Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can also find Little Prague at the Kirkland, Issaquah, Magnolia, University Village, Ballard, West Seattle, and Capitol Hill farmers’ markets. Check their website and Instagram for updated locations and times.