When you hear the term Fast Food, you probably think of drive-thrus, pre-made burgers, and assembly line burritos. The food might not be good, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re just looking for something to eat in your car.

But fast food, lowercase - food that is fast - is different. These are neighborhood spots like a fantastic deli, a burger stand, or a taco truck. They serve affordable, quick meals that come from the heart, not from under a heat lamp. It’s the kind of food you form a bond with, even if you do end up eating it in your car. Joy, the Taiwanese place in Highland Park, may be the ultimate version of a fast food spot - it’s a great place for a filling, affordable lunch or dinner, served at a speed that gives any corporate chain a run for its money.

Yes, there’s a grab-your-own drinks case, a deli counter full of cold sides, and occasionally-lackadaisical cashiers. But Joy is also always packed with people gathered around small tables, ordering multiple rounds of sake slushies and sharing steaming bowls of food. They’re here because it’s an easy meal. But that doesn’t mean the meal isn’t also excellent.

Joy review image

Narrowing down your options isn’t easy - the menu is huge, and since everything is under $10, you’ll be tempted to order all of it. And honestly, that’s not a bad plan. There’s a silky mapo tofu with a ton of flavor, a lightly-yet-perfectly spiced minced pork over rice, and rich dan dan noodles with jidori chicken, cucumber, and cilantro. We also love the thousand layer pancake, a savory, crackly flatbread that’s folded-up and loaded with chili sauce, basil, and (for an extra $3) cheese and egg.

No matter what you order, you won’t have to wait long to eat it. At Joy, you will definitely spend more time looking for a table than you will waiting for your food to arrive. And after the first dish hits the table, the food just keeps on coming. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s also impressive - and the food is unlike anything you’d get at a chain restaurant.

So yes, Joy is a fast food spot. A fantastic one. But no matter what you want to call it, after a speedy meal here, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll want to come back for more.

Joy review image

Food Rundown

Cold Sides

The deli case cold sides change often, and bear absolutely no resemblance to whatever’s cooling in the deli case at Ralph’s. Our favorites are the bamboo shoots, the pig ear salad, and the wood ear mushrooms.

Joy review image

Thousand Layer Pancake

A good litmus test to see if the person you’re going out with is worth another date is the thousand layer pancake - if they don’t like it, delete them from your phone.

Joy review image

Minced Pork Over Rice

We will never come here and not order this. It may just look like some ground pork over rice, but once you try it, you’ll realize how seriously addictive this spiced pork is.

Joy review image

Scallion Sesame Bread Sandwich With Pork Belly

This upgraded version of a pork bun comes on house-baked scallion sesame bread, which is so good that we literally buy it by the loaf (it’s on the menu for $12).

Joy review image

Dan Dan Noodles With Chicken

When you get them plain, these are pretty standard dan dan noodles - but add in the jidori chicken, and somehow, it just takes this dish to another peanut-y, sesame-y level.

Joy review image

Mapo Tofu

This isn’t the spiciest mapo tofu around, but it’s some of the best in town. The tofu is the perfect silky consistency, and it packs the kind of pungent punch we like in our mapo.

Joy review image

Featured in

The Best Noodle Soups In Los Angeles guide image
The Best Noodle Soups In Los Angeles

From ramen and pho to matzo balls and boat noodles, here are 23 delicious bowls of soup to get you through another blustery(ish) LA winter.

The Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide guide image
The Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide

For all the nights when you can’t deal with figuring out where to get dinner.

Where To Eat With A Third-Tier Friend guide image
Where To Eat With A Third-Tier Friend

When you somehow rope yourself into dinner with a friend you don’t see too often, use this list.

23 LA Restaurants Where You Can Actually Find Parking guide image
23 LA Restaurants Where You Can Actually Find Parking

Where to go when the parking situation is almost as important as the eating situation.

Suggested Reading

Little Pine review image
Little Pine

Little Pine is seemingly the most stereotypical LA restaurant in history. Except one thing - they aren’t worried about it.

Mason’s Dumpling Shop review image
Mason’s Dumpling Shop

Mason’s Dumplings Shop in Highland Park is home to some of the best dumplings you’ll find outside of the San Gabriel Valley.

Triple Beam Pizza review image
Triple Beam Pizza

Triple Beam is an excellent pizza-by-the-slice joint in Highland Park.

Cafe Birdie review image
Cafe Birdie

This Highland Park spot is all about life’s comforts.