Whenever we’re on the brink of losing our sh!t, caffeine, cocktails, or a really great meal have always been a leading light out of middle hell. So, allow us to put you on to Juniper Cafe, a Southern U.S./Pan-Asian cafe at the Westside Village that welcomes you, as you are, and provides you the perfect trifecta to help soothe whatever frustration is currently bringing you to tears: unrequited love, the gas pump, or an insufferably draining “baby and me” swim class at the neighboring AquaTots.
You could head inside to the blue-walled main room, where the small white tables give date night vibes. But we’re good on the patio with some drinks and noodles. Nearly everyone sits in this ultra casual, screened-in sunroom, including parents dragging in their damp kids straight from swim class. There’s a walk-up service window to order drinks and pastries if you’re in a rush, but there are plenty of teal, perforated back patio chairs in the sunroom when you just need to chill.
It all feels like a regular cafe—everything here suggests a no-frills meal. But when a plate of beautifully crisped fried chicken and a fragrant bowl of lemongrass and coconut broth mussels come to the table, you’ll stand corrected. (Or possibly stand to applaud the flavors. Do you.) A taste of the food, which comes from the culinary minds behind Lazy Betty, may make you feel underdressed for the occasion. But you’re not.
Find your warm hug with a full coffee menu of all the usuals. We especially like the milky Vietnamese coffee, on ice. If you’re feeling a bit more spirited, add a Japanese beer or Korean makgeolli to the table. And while all the imported drinks get rightful attention here, you shouldn’t overlook Juniper’s housemade drinks—including mildly-sweetened sodas in fun flavors like kumquat, passion fruit, and calamansi, which they make and bottle every Monday—or their creative cocktails, which feature some of those imported spirits.
Juniper is one of our favorite places to lose ourselves in a meal, to try out a few different beverages, and to temporarily forget about the cruel outside world, which would normally force us to change out of our workout clothes to eat and drink things this good.
Juniper’s vermicelli noodle bowls give your soul the satisfaction of carbs but with the freshness of herbs, crunchy peanuts, and other vegetable additions, so you’ll walk away feeling satisfied, without any heaviness. We like it with the Thai Fried Tofu, which is a masterpiece in itself—crispy on the outside, moist in the middle, and packed with enough flavor that you’ll want to make it your everyday snack.
Star Fruit, Citrus, and Green Papaya Salad
We pity the fool who doesn't order this shredded papaya salad. It's fresh, flavorful, full of textures from crunchy to soft, and a bit too addictive.
Coconut Shaved Ice
This is a multigenerational crowd pleaser. The kids will love it because the finely shaved coconut ice looks and tastes like ice cream. Us non-kids will appreciate the topping of fruit cubes and soft mochi pieces, a reminder of the days when fruit was considered dessert.
Their Vietnamese coffee, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk, is an instant hit of happiness. You can also add favors like lychee, passion fruit, and coconut to top it off. We like it served cold, which feels like more of a refreshing treat.