While Crawford County may be known nationally for its tasty fried chicken, another food could be even more popular in the area. Longtime residents share treasured memories of stopping by the Frontenac Bakery for a loaf of bread, straight from the oven. And, newcomers rave as they down their first slice of bread prior to eating the best fried chicken in the world.
Named as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce” by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the Frontenac Bakery was established in 1900 by Italian immigrant George Vacca. Having come from northern Italy to work in the coal mines of Crawford County, Vacca injured his knee while on the job and could no longer serve as a miner. Luckily, he had brought the old family recipe for hard-crusted Italian bread with him from his home country. Formerly a baker in Italy, it was only natural for Vacca to turn to the skills he knew after his injury.
Growing from humble beginnings, the bakery supplies its famous bread to Jim’s Steakhouse, Chatters and the six famous fried chicken restaurants in Crawford County. Each of the chicken restaurants also purchases bread crumbs to use in custom breadings. Additionally, many local grocery and convenience stores sell their products, including cinnamon rolls. The bakery sends its goods all over the state for chili feeds, church functions, and other events, in addition to selling them to locals who happen to pop in for some goodies.
Each night, between 500 and 700 loaves of bread are baked in the antique brick oven. Inserted with long wooden paddles, trays of just over 250 loaves are cooked at once and cooled on metal shelves, as other items, including dinner rolls, stuffing and breadsticks may await their turn in the oven.
From hoagie foundations to the oomph that makes the chicken great (the bread crumbs for the crust!), the Frontenac Bakery has been contributing to the local flavor of Crawford County for over 100 years.9