Chicago’s Ukrainian Community Can’t Get Enough of This New Lincoln Park Cafe

Ukrainian couple Artur and Iryna Yuzvik opened their first U.S. coffee shop, Soloway Coffee, in Lincoln Park, Chicago, in late January. The cafe was a new entrant in the dense and competitive coffee scene, and they were unsure if local caffeine aficionados would embrace their approach. However, the opening of Soloway Coffee put fears to rest, as locals were not only attracted to the cafe but also from states like Wisconsin, Connecticut, and New York.

The Chicago area is home to the second-largest Ukrainian American population in the U.S., with 54,000 people identifying as having Ukrainian ancestry. Recently, a fresh crop of Ukrainian American chefs has brought new attention to the country’s cuisine at spots like Anelya in Avondale and Pierogi Kitchen in Bucktown. On the East Coast, another Ukrainian coffee entrepreneur, Maks Isakov, founded Kavka Coffee in Camden, Maine.

The massive response from customers has prompted the Yuzviks to accelerate their expansion. They plan to soon sign a lease for a second location near the original, which will be an all-day affair that transitions from morning to evening and features a large selection of sweets. At the original cafe, the couple has partnered with Chicago carb whiz Dan “the Baker” Koester on a menu of pastries like chewy cinnamon knots, flakey croissants (strawberry, lemon, and almond), and impossibly creamy burnt Basque cheesecake.

An outdoor patio, called “summer seating,” will open in May or June with more than two dozen seats, starting with a borscht pop-up that aims to evoke memories of traditional Ukrainian soup with a contemporary culinary flair. The first few months have been instructive for the Yuzviks, who discovered that American customers tend to avoid sugary treats in the morning and order cold brew on some of the chilliest days of the year.

The most significant lesson since the cafe’s debut emerged from a conversation the couple overheard among customers waiting in line. The group mentioned that employees at Chicago’s lauded Metric Coffee had praised Soloway and encouraged them to visit. The Yuzviks are friendly with Metric founders Xavier Alexander and Darko Arandjelovic and leaned on them for beans when they unexpectedly sold out weeks before the next shipment was due to arrive.

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