After much success with fine-dining restaurant Lazy Betty, chef-partners Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips are planning a very different eatery on the Westside—a modern Vietnamese spot called Juniper Cafe. Planned to open this summer at 2250 Marietta Boulevard, it will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual atmosphere, with Vietnamese specialties like pho, noodle salads, banh mi, and shaved ice. As opposed to Lazy Betty, which offers a prix fixe menu, Juniper Cafe will serve items a la carte with a price point of $12-$18 for lunch and $18-$24 for dinner.
“Vietnamese food is very communal—you sit around a table and everyone shares stuff,” Hsu says. “On that side of Atlanta [where Juniper Cafe will be], everyone is very family oriented.”
Hsu will serve as the culinary director for both Juniper Cafe and Lazy Betty, while Phillips serves as Lazy Betty’s executive chef and Juniper Cafe’s corporate chef. Lazy Betty beverage director and general manager Carl Van Tyle Gilbert is also a partner in the cafe and will create a beverage program with French and American wines, global beers, and cocktails using Vietnamese ingredients. Craft sodas, coffee, espresso, and tea will be available all day.
Named for Hsu’s niece, Juniper Cafe will feature design elements that pay homage to historic Vietnamese homes and will be decorated with bright colors to reflect a playful spirit. The 110-seat space includes two patios and a takeout window for pastries and coffee.
Hsu and Phillips will begin testing Juniper Cafe menu items during pop-ups at Lazy Betty. The first one will be held Tuesday, April 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (or until sold out).
We spoke to Hsu to learn more.
Why’d you decide to open a more casual concept after such success with Lazy Betty?
I wanted something that can be more accessible to everybody. The amount of attention that a restaurant like Lazy Betty requires is more than I can handle. [Juniper Cafe] is very fun. It gives me a platform to offer a different kind of experience. I’m not always about a fancy dinner.
Vietnamese food is near and dear to me. It’s a melting pop of themes—French and Chinese. I’m classically trained in French food and traveled throughout Vietnam a few years ago. It made me love the cuisine even more.
What’s on the menu?
Charcuterie with strong French influence—homemade sausages with banh mi, homemade baguettes. We’ll have a small-scale bakery program. We might do Georgian cheese bread with egg inside of it and put sausage in it for breakfast. We’ll have pastries like croissants and Danish, and big, gooey signature cookies with oatmeal, pecans, and dark chocolate.
We’ll do a collard greens wrap with homemade sausage and peanut sauce for a southern spin as an appetizer, rice paper rolls, papaya salad, and starfruit salad. [Also,] shaking beef, Vietnamese-style caramel pork, and bahn xeo using local vegetables.
There’s shaved ice—shaved extremely thin like snow—with fresh fruit on top. We’ll have boozy ones like a coconut milk one with rum.
How will the menus change throughout the day?
Lunch and dinner will be similar but with some exclusive entrees or chef specials for dinner, like lemongrass grilled chicken.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m always interested in doing other concepts. Lazy Betty is very indicative of the food we like to cook and it’s very global. If we get the right opportunity and the business and economic conditions are right, we will try to do more concepts.