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Kim's Restaurant brings down home Korean cooking to the heart of Spokane

The Lee family creates, cooks, and serves delicious dishes with a bit of "Seoul" in every bite.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Lee family has been creating, cooking and serving delicious Korean food with a bit of "Seoul" in every bite at their restaurant for the past 20 years.

In the heart of Spokane, it doesn’t take long to see owner of Kim's Restaurant, Chong Lee’s caring demeanor. Even with a mask on, you can see her smiling and greeting customers with cheerful poise. The three people who run the restaurant include Lee, her husband and her daughter Sam.  

“My parents put so much effort into the food, they’re family recipes to share that with other people, it means a lot,” Sam said. 

The family took over the restaurant 20 years ago and for Chong it was a dream of hers to open her own business in Spokane. It’s a city she says she loves and will always be home. 

“They're {such} nice people here, {everyone asks} 'How are you?' They put {extra} money on and say this will help you, support you – it’s amazing, everyone’s very sweet,” Chong said.

Chong kept the original name of “Kim’s Restaurant” when she re-opened the restaurant but elevated the menu. There are items like bibimbap, which is a mixed vegetable and rice dish, to kalbi, which is short ribs marinated in a soy sauce blend then grilled. Lee said her favorite dish is kimchi-chigae, which is a spicy kimchi (fermented napa cabbage) soup. Lee said she did try the food before owning the business, and she sought out to truly make the restaurant stand out. 

“I thought the food wasn’t that great {when} the person owned this restaurant {before me}, I thought to myself if I did it, I could do a better job, even great,” Chong said.   

The menu items took a while to perfect, according to Chong, a trial and error for the past two decades.

“I didn’t grow up with my mom cooking everyday, I want to do something that’s for me, I want to do something that serves me, this was her idea,” Sam said.  

Chong said over the years, she’s never been concerned about money, in fact she listened to her customers. She said she added what her customers liked to the menu and what customers didn’t like she adjusted or took off the menu completely.  

 It’s been a dream of hers to be successful and she’s made it happen.  

“When I {make} side dishes, it makes me so happy. I feel so good, I even sing in the back, I think it’s really good,” Chong said. 

Originally from Jeollanam-do, a small province of South Korea, Chong said even when visiting her hometown, she missed Spokane. 

As for her plans in the next 20 years, she said she will be right here in the Inland Northwest.