From Vivian Ku, the founder of Silverlake’s Pine and Crane, comes Joy — a fast-casual Taiwanese restaurant located on the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 51 in Highland Park. Taking over the two spaces previously occupied by the French restaurant Ba and Elsa’s Bakery, Ku’s second restaurant opened March 6.
Featuring various Taiwanese dishes, such as pork belly bao, chicken on rice and minced pork on rice, Ku said the restaurant’s menu is a testament to its fast-casual philosophy and her desire to maintain it as a neighborhood spot where anyone can dine.
“Part of the whole concept is to be a place where you can come and grab a snack. It doesn’t have to be a full-on meal, it doesn’t really have to be planned beforehand. We try to be pretty accommodating in terms of having different items that meet different dietary restrictions, so that people who eat differently can still gather together and find something for them,” Ku said.
Ku described Pine and Crane and Joy as siblings, sharing the same spirit. She said this differs from her initial plan to create an establishment completely different from its predecessor, as does the actual of size the restaurant itself. The approximately 1,000-square-foot space, which was previously occupied by the restaurant Ba, was not large enough to accommodate a proper dining area, which led Ku to rent the space formerly occupied by Elsa’s Bakery as well. She sees the newest addition to Highland Park’s evolving food scene standing out amidst a host of new, successful businesses by bringing a taste of Taiwan to its customers while also remaining respectful of the local history.
“Not that many people know about Taiwan, so being able to share what Taiwanese food is all about to a diverse group of people and making it accessible is really what we’re about,” Ku said.
As an homage to the previous owners, Ku keeps the sign for Elsa’s Bakery on display and features Mexican wedding cookies — a staple of the former bakery — on the dessert menu. Ku said all profits from cookie sales go to the community and that she plans to pick a different non-profit every month for donations.
“I feel like [Highland Park is] a very unique neighborhood, in that it has a lot of history. You know, my landlords are the original owners of [Elsa’s Bakery], [that had] been here for 40 years,” Ku said.
Ku’s donation of Joy’s cookie profits is consistent with her desire to reach a number of different demographics in the area and become integrated into nearby communities (including Occidental’s), according to line cook Zander Silverman ‘17.
“[Vivian] really wants to cultivate a loyal and regular customer base, and give you the most authentic Taiwanese food you can get,” Silverman said. “I’ve already seen a few Oxy students coming in. In my opinion, it’s probably the best, definitely the cheapest for the quality, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more Oxy kids come here.”
Music professor David Kasunic said the restaurant has already proved popular in the community.
“After [my colleague and I] got our food and sat down, we saw that the line increased and went way out the door, but they were moving people through very quickly,” Kasunic said. “We were both just so giddy after eating here, knowing that a place like this had opened close by, that it was affordable, really pleasant, with fresh, good food. It felt very warm, and people were just very friendly.”