I have been a fan of chef Ron Hsu fan since the moment I sat down at his Candler Park fine-dining sensation, Lazy Betty. Lazy Betty has thrived in the toughest of conditions including Covid as Hsu beautifully articulated in a New York Times op-ed last December and so I was thrilled to see him expand his craft in the Atlanta scene.
So now comes Juniper Café, a colorful, modern casual Vietnamese café and bakery in Atlanta's Upper Westside district [check out my Instagram Reel]. Hsu cooks up Vietnamese fan favorites: house-made Banh mis, shrimp-stuffed summer rolls, pho and noodle salads, plus, a roasted duck leg, lemongrass marinated pork chop and a Vietnamese-style filet mignon (cooked "unshaken"). On my visit, I devoured the pear, citrus and green papaya salad, a spicy, zesty and remarkably fresh salad experience. Next, the Vietnamese hot fried chicken, a perfectly battered and fried bird that was lovingly smothered in Thai chili sauce and served with jicama slaw. This was a hurt-so-good dish that danced on my tongue during and after the meal. The savory coconut shrimp crepe was also especially enjoyable, the shrimp and shitake mushrooms crunching beneath the soft, pillowy crepe. We ended with a shaved coconut ice smothered in mochi and mango, easily my new favorite summertime dessert in the ATL. Also be sure to check out the incredible pastry offerings including croissants, cinnamon rolls, and an addictive Portuguese egg tart. The grab-n-go bakery window is a perfect way to snag a coffee, tea and artisan pastry (and opens at 8 am on weekends). Juniper Café is nothing fancy, just super comfortable beautifully rendered Vietnamese anyone can enjoy.