WASHINGTON PARK — You can now grab West African food and cold brew coffee at the Rebuild Foundation’s Currency Exchange Cafe residency program.
Dozzy’s Grill and CTRL Z Coffee have opened in the cafe, 305 E. Garfield Blvd., as part of the foundation’s residency program, where it provides space and resources for food and beverage businesses for six months. The two are the program’s second cohort; it first featured Monday Coffee and Pour Souls, which wrapped up their residencies in December.
Dozzy’s Grill owner Dozzy Ibekwe is using the opportunity to bring his Nigerian-inspired dishes to the South Side, where African restaurants are few and far between. After rising rents forced Ibekwe out of the South Loop, having another opportunity to be in a brick-and-mortar space allows the restauranteur to chart the course for the long term, Ibekwe said.
Ibekwe grew up in South Holland after his family emigrated from Nigeria in the mid-’90s. He learned to cook at his grandmother’s hip.
Dishes like his Afrobeat salad — made with cherry tomatoes, orange, onion, fennel and toasted walnuts tossed in an orange-paprika vinaigrette ($9) — and suya kebobs — skewers of ribeye steak served with jollof rice ($20) — are a hit with diners, Ibekwe said.
The Roosevelt University grad said the Currency Exchange residency helps him introduce his cuisine to a new audience in a comfortable, unpretentious way.
“I’m hoping that in five years I’m delivering that well enough that people who experience my food will have their interests piqued to try other West African restaurants for a similar experience,” Ibekwe said.
CRTL Z Coffee founder Zandro Zafra spent the pandemic delivering his homemade cold brew to neighbors in south suburban Plainfield, his coffee becoming a hit after he shared some with friends.
The photographer — who once shied away from the beverage — became a coffee connoisseur while shooting weddings, using it to keep him awake, Zafra said.
“It’s a water drop every two seconds to make it really smooth, really refined, with not a lot of oil,” said Zafra, who moved to the Chicago area from the Philippines when he was 16. “Cold brew should be smooth; you shouldn’t be able to taste any acidity. You should be able to taste the beans.”
CTRL Z’s coffee costs $3-$6. Zafra offers a variety of flavored lattes — including pandan, inspired by his native country — and other espresso drinks.
Zafra is collaborating with a friend who bakes cookies, pairing the treats with coffees that complement their flavors. Having the ability to experiment and grow his business with the help of the Rebuild Foundation has proved invaluable, he said.
“I hope to have more coffee carts in the next five years for private events: weddings, parties, corporate events. Eventually, we’ll have enough money saved for a brick-and-mortar, as well,” Zafra said.
The Currency Exchange Cafe is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday.
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