This busy fast-casual Taiwanese spot in Highland Park serves a tight menu of classic street foods, including rice bowls, noodles, and buns, along with a changing selection of cold appetizers like crunchy lotus roots and wood ear mushrooms. Joy is the sister restaurant of equally popular Pine & Crane, but the menu here is more solo dining friendly and one we find ourselves returning to more often. Part of the menu carries over hits from Pine & Crane, like the minced pork on rice, but also brings some new items exclusive to Joy–like the flaky thousand layer pancakes, best eaten filled with egg, cheese, chili sauce, and basil. And while this isn’t the case with every place on this guide, make sure to save room for dessert–the shaved ice or soft Hakka mochi dusted with finely crushed peanuts and black sesame are both great.
Minced Pork Over Rice
Joy’s minced pork rice is classic Taiwanese comfort food done really well. While at some places you’ll find this made with ground pork, here the rice is topped with tender Kurobuta pork, with the marinade seeping through the warm rice below so that each spoonful is super flavorful. You also get pickled radish on the side to cleanse your palate and get it ready for another bite of fatty pork.
Thousand Layer Pancake
This pancake gets griddled until the bottom is nice and crispy. And at Joy, you can get it plain or filled with egg, cheese, or both–you also have an option to get it with basil and a sweet chili sauce, which you absolutely should. We think the cheese detracts somewhat from the other flavors, but if you want melted cheese in your pancake, don’t let us stop you.
Chiayi Chicken Rice
A rice bowl topped with shredded chicken breast and shallot oil, this common Taiwanese street food gets an upgrade with Koshihikari short-grain rice and Jidori chicken. It may not be the richest or most flavorful dish here, but it still hits the spot with its simplicity. And sometimes, a really good bowl of chicken rice is all we want.
This traditional, shareable dessert might look simple, but that’s actually the point. Pieces of pillowy, fresh mochi are coated with finely crushed peanuts on one side and finely crushed black sesame seeds on the other. Sip some hot tea, stab each piece with a toothpick, and repeat as necessary.