Lake Avenue’s the Reyn is a classic greasy-spoon diner, with dim yellow lighting, Formica tabletops, molded plastic booths and… pho?
That’s right, this venerable coffee shop is now a pulling double duty as a Vietnamese restaurant, specializing in the noodle soup known as pho. Although this combo isn’t quite peanut butter and chocolate, it’s a welcome surprise on a stretch of Lake that’s dominated by Mexican food and drive-throughs, especially given the severe lack of pho places in Pasadena.
As cool as the Reyn’s old-school decor is, the real draw is the pho, a giant bowl of steaming broth filled with rice noodles and your choice of meat: the standard options of rare brisket, flank steak or beef meatballs, as well as chicken, shrimp or barbecued pork. The salty, savory broth is tasty but not exceptional — it benefits from the provided chile paste and hoisin-like sauce. Swimming in the broth are the same slippery, slightly chewy rice noodles you get in any pho (although the Reyn also offers an egg noodle option). The steak, however, is exceptional — the Pho Tai, or rare beef, is of higher quality than the average pho steak, and there’s plenty of it, too.
In addition to pho, you’ll find such classic Vietnamese appetizers as spring rolls, which have an excellent basil flavor that goes perfectly with the peanut sauce, though the more flavorful beef roll outclasses the shrimp. Prices are average, at around $7 to $8 for a bowl of noodle soup, with spring rolls at $5. Ultimately, the Reyn is a welcome addition to Lake — even if wasn’t the only place for pho in the area, it would still be a find.
635 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626.449.5768. L & D Mon. – Sat. No booze. MC, V. $