Nick Cho, the co-founder of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, is best known locally for third-wave coffee served out of two beautiful cafes in Cow Hollow and Berkeley. But the barista has found a whole other personality and community online — Cho has a wildly popular TikTok account called “Your Korean Dad,” in which he pretends to be … your dad. The account just hit a big milestone for the social media network: Cho now has 2 million followers on TikTok, who are tuning in to watch him make cheese Ramyun or buy snacks at Walgreens.
For those who might be unfamiliar with TikTok, which is relatively new to the US, it’s not as weird as it sounds? TikTok skews towards a younger audience, and there are plenty of kids on it, including Cho’s own teenage daughters (age 15, who thinks this is delightful, and age 17, only slightly annoyed). And in addition to dance and lip sync memes, point-of-view videos are very common, in which a TikToker pretends to be your aunt or best friend. Cho first introduced this character in April, and quickly found his audience. By November, he had a million followers. Two months later, that doubled.
“Some people have been saying he’s the new Mister Rogers,” says Cho. “And for me, that’s super heavy, because Mister Rogers was one of my heroes.” The videos are sweet and simple, just a dad doing everyday things with his kids. He buys bagels at Costco (1.7 million views). He learns to longboard (3.3 million views). He gives you the new iPhone, and makes you a cup of coffee. This one time, he found $ 30 fancy grapes and had to try them. “Really sweet. Really grapey. I think these are the best grapes I’ve ever had.” (10 million views.)
Cho wanted to connect and engage with people, but never imagined this would be the road to fame. “I stumbled upon a lot of people for whom just having a nurturing, caring father figure on a screen was so emotional and impactful,” he says. And within these heartwarming videos, he’s hoping to normalize being multicultural, and slip in some subtle messages. He buys his daughters tampons like it’s no big deal. He tells LGBTQ+ kids that loves them and sees them.
It’s definitely not a food account, so if you’re specifically looking for restaurant recommendations in the Bay Area, you might also want to check out Millie Lai (@millie.lai) or Tim Cheung (@bayareafoodies). But “Your Korean Dad” does love to eat, and locals might spot a few of their favorites: Beef pho from Kevin’s Noodles on Irving Street (“jiggle the noodles a little bit”). A crispy duck banh mi and quick lesson on colonialism from Mr. Bánh Mì. Oh, and he’ll take you to the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world, which as we all know, is on the beach in Pacifica.
“I’m here to live my life, and show little glimpses of a Korean-American household, and my desire is to help normalize these things,” says Cho. Plus, stay tuned for an upcoming episode on roller skates.