We have to remind ourselves how lucky we are to have Joya’s Cafe in the neighborhood. It’s no secret that we’re long-time fans of chef Avishar Barua, his work, and the teams he assembles, from his time at Service Bar to Joya’s to his most recent venture of Agni in the Brewery District. We were most certainly THOSE people who were knocking down the doors the day Joya’s opened in Old Worthington.
Since that time Joya’s has established itself as a not-quite-so-hidden gem, an outpost that’s filled with regulars while drawing visitors from around the city.
The cafe makes its home in the former Sassafras Bakery. It’s been given a makeover to upgrade the kitchen and open up the space a bit. There’s now a small trio of tables up front, a long counter, and a small one lining the wall opposite it. On nicer days you can grab seats at the cafe tables or picnic table out front.
Joya’s menu is posted on the wall and on paper menus. Keep an eye on their social media for specials and secret menu items. Overall, I appreciate that the menu at Joya’s is small and focused.
We’ve been to the cafe often enough to have tried everything on the menu, so here are some of our favorites.
First off, don’t ignore the bakery case. You’ll find a few regulars plus one-time offerings. I’d highly recommend the donuts.
As well as the samosas (some of the best we’ve ever tasted) and the egg chop, similar to a Scotch egg.
Second, don’t skip the coffee. Joya’s uses Thunderkiss Coffee for a dynamic menu of espresso drinks, nitro cold brew, specialized lattes. You can’t ignore the chai as well. They craft a couple drinks using Joya’s recipes, and they’re rich and delicious.
The breakfast sandwich is a sure-fire introduction, a beautifully constructed and flavorful take on a classic bacon-and-eggs concoction. Joya’s layers soft scrambled eggs, bacon, Joya’s special sauce and herb salsa, and chives on potato pav, a type of fluffy Indian bun.
Fans of Avishar’s time at Service Bar will remember his famous cheesy double crunch. Rest assured it’s returned in fine form at Joya’s.
For those unfamiliar, the cheesy double crunch is like Avishar’s take on a Taco Bell chalupa, only using a crispy corn tortilla and a paratha flatbread to hold queso, smoked cheddar, lettuce, salsa, and your choice of beef, chicken, or black beans and potatoes.
One of our family’s favorites is the Joya’s fried rice.
It’ll be some of the best fried rice you’ve ever tasted, combining crispy chicken, bacon, a wok-fried egg, rice crisps, soy sauce, sambal, peanut chili crisp, cilantro, and lime – all in a heaping, generous portion.
The crispy Manchurian chicken sandwich layers chai-brined, twice-fried, glazed chicken with pickles, slaw, and a chili aioli.
The Not Pad Thai piles together wok-fried rice noodles with smoked pork, roasted eggplant, Thai basil, peanut chili crisp, a special sauce, and a fried omelet.
Another winner – and in the running for one of our top picks – is the lamb kati roll. It’s huge and packs a serious punch of flavor. Inside a crispy fried and rolled paratha you’ll find tender lamb kebab, egg, pickled red onion, Joya’s apple chutney, maple chaat yogurt, and their creamy herb salsa.
You can expect Joya’s to be pretty busy, especially on weekends, and especially especially on Saturdays while the farmer’s market is in full swing, but in our experience we’ve always been able to find a seat. I especially love the big counter and getting to watch the kitchen crew in action.
If you love Joya’s as much as we do, you can take a little swag home with you.
And if you’re lucky you’ll see Avishar and his mother, the cafe’s namesake, behind the counter!
Joya’s is currently open Wednesday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.