Oleander Cafe, Topeka Vendors Market's sole eatery, brings New York-style cooking to Topeka

Brianna Childers
Topeka Capital-Journal
Zach Stanek, owner of Oleander Cafe, stands behind the counter of his new eatery. The cafe, located inside of Topeka Vendors Market is known for serving New York-inspired dishes.

During Topekan Zach Stanek's first several visits to the Topeka Vendors Market, he always noticed the counter and little nook set up to the left as customers walk in the building's entrance.

On each subsequent visit to the market, Stanek wondered what might become of that space, so he decided to ask the owners. 

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"I was like, 'I have to ask someone what they're doing because this is a shame it's just sitting here,'" Stanek said. "I asked about it and it was something that I said, 'In this day and age, if I don't try something, who's to blame but myself?'"

Now when customers walk through the market's front door and look to the left, they will see Stanek standing behind the counter of his new business Oleander Cafe.

Stanek, originally from Olean, New York, comes from a family that loves to cook and eat.

Cafe is open Saturdays at Topeka Vendors Market

The cafe, which is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays at 528 S.E. Adams St., has a menu that includes sandwiches, wraps, hot dogs, biscuits and gravy, cookies and its specialty: Beef on Weck.

A special dish to Stanek's family and native to western New York, the sandwich is made with slow-roasted beef and a buttered kaiser roll that is topped with caraway seeds and kosher salt. 

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While that might sound like any sandwich you could order at a restaurant, what makes the Beef on Weck unique is the addition of horseradish and mustard. In order to add some Kansas flair to the sandwich, Oleander Cafe serves it with a side of barbecue sauce.

The sandwich is his way to connect with his family roots.

"With the pandemic and everything, you feel really distant from everyone," Stanek said, "and our family back home is very close-knit."

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And the Topeka community has fully embraced the Beef on Weck. 

"So many people have come that are either from around where our hometown is and said: 'I couldn't believe that you guys had this; no one has this here' and then other people who try them are like, 'How have I never had one of these?'" Stanek said.

The Beef on Weck sandwich is made with slow-roasted beef served on a buttered kaiser roll with caraway seeds and salt on top. The sandwich is served with a side of mustard, horseradish and barbecue sauce.

Pierogies on tap for Easter weekend

Oleander Cafe rotates its featured dishes while keeping its staples in place. During Easter weekend, the eatery will offer pierogies, dumplings that are wrapped in a dough and contain a sweet or savory filling.

While Stanek can't be with his family in New York, his business has found a welcoming home at Topeka Vendors Market and enjoys the opportunity to share a dish from his hometown with Topeka.

"I just think its important to share what makes me feel good and my family feel good with other people and if it makes other people feel good, that's great," Stanek said. "That's a win in my book."