Owners to bring 12 years of Korean restaurant experience to downtown Lawrence

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A local married couple is getting ready to open a Korean restaurant just off Mass Street.

Cafe The Mani at 7 E. Seventh St. might be opening its doors by the end of March. 

The Korean word Mani means “much more, many more” in English. And Brian Park and Rose Cho like the name because their hope is to attract many more people and serve many more foods.

Fine-tuning their menu, deciding on prices, and arranging decor, Cho and Park are nearly ready to open. 

Lawrence Lowdown

Some of the menu items include Korean barbecue, Korean fried chicken and bibimbap. In Korean, bibim means “mix,” and bap means rice; this dish is vegetables or meat over a bed of rice. It’s really good with a fried egg on top, Cho said. 

Cho and Park owned a successful Korean restaurant in Los Angeles for 12 years. 

“We needed a break,” Cho said.

That break lasted nearly 10 years. Living an “easy life” after stepping away from the restaurant industry, Cho and Park made their way to Lawrence two years ago.

Chansi Long/Lawrence Times

“We love Lawrence,” Cho said. “It is so beautiful here.” 

Once they settled here, Cho and Park started to envision themselves starting a Korean restaurant downtown. 

There haven’t been a lot of Korean restaurants in Lawrence. O Cafe, which was at 1530 W. Sixth St., served savory Korean food for a decade until it closed in 2021, partially due to the COVID-10 pandemic. 92 Chicken, a Korean fried chicken restaurant, is slated to open this year, but other than that, Lawrencians must drive out of town to eat at a Korean restaurant — at least for now. 

When the property at 7 E. Seventh St. became available, Cho and Park seized the opportunity to lease the spot, both for its location downtown and its size. Their L.A. restaurant had been much larger, with the capacity to seat hundreds. 

Cafe The Mani has the capacity to seat 49 people. Any bigger would be too much, they said.

The restaurant will not have servers; customers will take their own food to their tables. Park, Cho and Cho’s sister will prepare all the food. 

It takes a lot of work to make Korean food, and you can’t do it without knowledge or training, Cho said. 

“Korean food is really complicated,” she said. 

The meat has to be marinated with an intricate array of spices. It goes through stages, and knowledge of the process is essential, Cho and Park said.

Fortunately, Cho and Park feel energized enough to resume their lifelong passion of preparing Korean food for others. 

“Running a Korean restaurant is very very hard,” Park said. “But we decided to open a Korean restaurant in Lawrence — we want to give Korean food to Lawrence people.” 

Note: An inaccurate address and name in this post have been corrected.

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Lawrence Lowdown is a feature on developments around town. Have a tip? Let us know.

Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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