Chingu Coffee wants to make a 'space for this neighborhood to gather,' with its own Korean twist
Chingu Coffee, which celebrated its grand opening in the West Plaza early this month, is the caffeinated companion to Keeyoung Kim's other Korean restaurants in Kansas City, Chingu and Sura Eats.
Chingu means “friend” in Korean, he explained, and friendship is the recurring theme between the restaurant — which debuted July 2022 in Westport — and the coffee shop — which soft opened in mid-May in the West Plaza (1201 W. 47th St.). Community got him through the pandemic, Kim said, and he knew, once he launched a new concept, that sentiment would be reflected.
“We have to embody (friendship),” he explained. “That’s just really our goal and that’s the motivation behind it. We want people to come in with friends on any given day just to hang out. We want people to build friendships here.”
Chingu Coffee — a partnership between Kim and Bria Zyniewicz that just celebrated its grand opening early this month — is a traditional coffee shop and roaster with a Korean flair, Kim noted.
“There’s not much difference in terms of how we roast our coffee or the things that we serve or our interactions with our guests that make it a Korean coffee shop, per se,” continued Kim, noting coffee culture is also big in Korea. “With me really trying to communicate my Korean culture well through the vehicle of food, we’re hoping that — in that same kind of parallel way — we can do that with beans to coffee to the product that the customer receives.”
Chingu Coffee does feature some syrups with Korean flavors — like a red bean, vanilla and a misugaru, which is a multi-grain roasted caramel flavor — and pastries with a twist — like a kimchi bacon Danish, plus a breakfast burrito with Korean sausage marinated in gochujang, steamed egg, and hashbrowns on a Yoli Tortilleria tortilla.
“So kind of pairing the familiar with the not so familiar and introducing folks that way,” he added. “We just want to be a really good coffee shop in a neighborhood that’s really rallied around us.”
Through their partnership with KC-based Anthem Coffee Imports, Kim said the team at Chingu Coffee heavily focuses on the roasting — lighter to medium is their style — and their relationship with the farmers.
“There’s so much that goes into actually getting this cup of coffee,” he explained, “everything from the farming process to the processing to importing and then roasting and then brewing. So we’re like, ‘How do we honor that best?’ And that’s really — at the end of the day — our philosophy: How do we honor what was intended?”
The West Plaza neighborhood has really embraced the coffee shop, Kim shared, even though that wasn’t the intended location. Chingu Coffee and Chingu the restaurant were originally slated to open as a collaboration — along with a small market — in the Crossroads. Once that deal fell through, they found different spots for each concept and split them up.
“That’s just been super gratifying to be able to be a space for this neighborhood to gather,” he said.
Neighboring Bay Boy Sandwiches has expanded its dine-in space to the back portion of the coffee shop.
“When we signed on, we sat with them and asked, ‘How can we make this an awesome spot for the neighborhood?’” he recalled. “It kind of makes sense: breakfast and coffee, then hang out for a bit and go grab some lunch and vice versa.”
To accommodate the neighborhood better, Kim said, soon Chingu Coffee is planning to switch its hours to Monday through Saturday (instead of Tuesday through Sunday). Kim and Zyniewicz are also hoping to have monthly neighborhood nights, where they bring in other vendors, like they did for their grand opening.
“Just in the spirit of friendship, but also in the spirit of, ‘Hey, we’re a coffee shop for the neighborhood; Come and enjoy,’” he continued. “We’re going to do some fun things and have some parties here — not like crazy parties. But that’s something that we’re really looking forward to is just really being an integral part of the neighborhood.”