Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips, the team behind award-winning fine dining restaurant Lazy Betty, will launch their next venture—a casual Vietnamese cafe—on December 15 at the Westside Village shopping center on Marietta Boulevard. Called Juniper Cafe (2260 Marietta Boulevard Northwest), an ode to Hsu’s niece with a nod to the street in Midtown, it will serve pho, noodle salads, banh mi, and shaved ice, with a full pastry-and-coffee program, too.
“We use the same philosophy in approaching food as we do at Lazy Betty—seasonal, locally sourced, with our twist—but this is more family-oriented,” Hsu says, explaining that when he and Phillips opened Lazy Betty, neither had children. Now that they do, their dining needs have changed.
Hsu’s siblings Anita Hsu and Howard Hsu originally secured the Marietta Boulevard location for a vegetable-forward Mexican concept called Amar Bien but Ron says the Covid-19 pandemic changed people’s needs, and the team adjusted accordingly. As such, Juniper Cafe will feature two weather-proofed patios and a takeout window. It’ll serve breakfast and dinner Wednesday through Sunday and add lunch into the mix in one or two months.
Led by executive chef Tim Rufino, formerly of Lazy Betty, the team will make eight to 10 types of pastries daily. Expect spinach and cheese turnovers, puff pastries, croissants, Portuguese egg tarts, Turkish egg bread, and baguettes for banh mi. Chunky oatmeal-pecan-chocolate chip cookies will be served warm all day.
For dinner, there will be summer rolls with poached Georgia shrimp, Chinese pork jerky, and pickled vegetables; caramel pork banh mi; Vietnamese hot fried chicken; bun noodle salad with rice vermicelli; and cha trun hap (vegetable terrine); and more.
“I love that our summer rolls have homemade pork jerky on the inside—it’s a really awesome twist,” Phillips says.
Carl Van Tyle Gilbert is leading the beverage program combining Asian ingredients and French spirits. The Patio Country features Plymouth gin, Mizu green tea shochu, kiwi, cucumber, lemongrass, suze, and lime, while the Sandbar Nap is comprised of 10 to 1 Rum, ginseng-infused soju, pineapple, passionfruit, pink peppercorn honey, lime, and angostura bitters. Flights of soju, shochu, and baiju are available, in addition to beer, wine, and sake. For a nonalcoholic option, Gilbert’s team is making craft, bottled, natural sodas with ingredients such as Thai basil, yuzu, kumquat, and black pepper.
For dessert, Juniper Café will serve thin shaved ice in flavors like coconut infused with mangos, strawberries, and mochi on it, finished with pineapple ice cream and finished with a drizzle of condensed milk.
“This feels like snow—it almost dissolves in your mouth,” Hsu says.
Like the dessert, the interior is designed to convey fun. With a neon sign and a mint-and-green color scheme, the decor is bright and cheery. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the space is the wavy sequence of drop ceilings designed to look like an upside-down rice terrace.
“It’s super Instagrammable,” Hsu says.
Hsu and Phillips are also opening an American food restaurant called Humble Pie (1115 Howell Mill Road) in spring 2022. Led by executive chef Evelyn Ling of Pancake Social, Humble Pie will serve woodfired sourdough pizza with unique toppings like collard greens or Cajun shrimp, plus pot pie, hamburgers, and cauliflower steak.
“Everything starts from humble beginnings. We’re just cooking the best American food with everything made from scratch,” Hsu says. “The name is indicative of a pizza and apple pie, but it’s not about all things pie.”
“This is the type of food we’d like to go out and eat,” Phillips adds. “This is our version of what your neighborhood American restaurant could be.”
Located in the Interlock on the Westside, Humble Pie will feature an extensive beverage program with more than 50 natural, organic, or biodynamic wines, in addition to cocktails and local beer and cider. At 4,300 square feet, there will be a lounge, patio, and upstairs mezzanine.