Pho in Pasadena? Adventures on North Lake

I hate when I start sentences like this but here we go: Not to be a snob but….I hate to eat pho outside of San Gabriel and I rarely go north of the 210 on Lake. Sure my new favorite hot dog place is up there, there’s good Salvadoran food, Bulgarini gelato, and those cupcakes that I try weekly to try (even though Polkadots is ALWAYS closed) but it is not an area I explore very often. On Super Bowl Sunday we had a strange run-in with the people at Coffee Gallery. We were giggle corner and had the weirdest day of eavesdropping. First, the counter girl with no provoking said she hated people on Yelp. Not smart when you have two yelpers in front of you. One of these ladies has almost 2,000 Yelp reviews and you better believe she is going to write about this. This afternoon spent in a coffee shop was hilarious. Zombie bunnies, eyepatches, and a secret reservation line for the coffee shop were amongst the topics discussed. I even did a bit of celeb sighting. I had just returned from the bathroom and noticed a pretty woman walked in and I was “star stuck” trying to place her. I then realized that I just saw her picture in the hallway and that she was doing a concert at the cafe in a few weeks and tickets were $15. Everyone seemed to know one another and people were taking naps on the couches. It was this bizarre world that I felt that I accidentally entered. We were so out of place we began to attribute new names to the people we were in contact with,  I called them “Mountain Folks” and Josie called them “Renaissance Fair Goers.”

After all, this area is where our friends the Climbing Couple live and all they does is hike and do crazy things like exercise…daily. I kid, but the difference between North Lake and South Lake are vast. I live on the South Side so I normally stick to that side. Yesterday, on my way home, I decided to drive up Lake because I had to get a new cord for my Tivo/TV connection. I drove past a coffee shop that I have seen numerous times but this time I noticed a banner that said that they are now serving pho in addition to their regular menu. Now this regular menu is sausage, eggs, and pancakes so Vietnamese soup didn’t necessarily complement it, but I was fascinated. I looked for The Reyn on my Yelp App and saw that filet mignon pho was quite popular. I called in an order to go while I was S-Video cord shopping. When I went to pick up my soup I was amazed by the aqua blue diner interior and that you could buy lotto on the right hand side of the restaurant. My pho was double what I pay at Golden Deli, around $9, but any dinner under $10 is good for me. The owner was charming and when I asked if I could take a photo he said exactly what the infamous sticker says, “People on Yelp love us.”

I have tried several different pho places in Pasadena and they were all less than mediocre and yet I had slightly higher hopes for this place. I went home and rather then first eating I decided to go to an area that scares many, the back of the entertainment center. I am the kind of girl that never needs a man to program my Blu-Ray player. It took me probably 20 minutes and then I decided to break into my pho. I have ordered pho to-go at numerous places and I know the drill. The large container of broth/meat, the box of noodles, the bag of just cilantro and onion, and a bag of produce additions, and then little containers of sriracha and hoisin sauce. I started to add the noodles in and then I saw that there was a bag that I had never seen before, a plastic bag with raw filet mignon. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded except I was worried my broth may no longer be hot enough to cook the meat. I instantly dropped it in and when it wasn’t changing colors I rushed it to a pot and put it over heat.

I was laughing the whole time and it was one of those UG moments that should’ve be on camera. It was funny because I was reading a review on Yelp where the girl didn’t like that her filet mignon was served already cooked. If I was in the restaurant that also would have bothered me. However, I was not, I was at home and had a bag of raw meat to deal with. I think Reyn needs to change their meat serving protocol: raw meat in the restaurant and cooked meat for take-out. I poured my soup into a new bowl, dressed it up, and finally got my first good pho from Pasadena. Is it better than Golden Deli? No, but I will definitely go back and eat a bowl there. I love Vietnamese food and if I had to spend the rest of my life slurpin pho and eating bahn mi, I would die a happy woman. Thank you North Lake Avenue for giving me funny situations and adding a new element to my Pasadena (or Passédena) life!

Coffee Gallery
Neighborhood: Pasadena
2029 Lake Ave
Altadena, CA 91001
(626) 398-7917
The Reyn
Neighborhood: Pasadena
635 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 449-5768


  1. Ooh, now I want to try it out next time I’m in Pasadena. I’ve had raw meat in takeout pho before — what I usually do is zap the broth in the microwave to get it piping hot, then add the noodles and meat and stuff.

  2. Coffee Gallery- boo
    Reyn- sounds like a happy maybe

  3. San Gabriel has plenty of good pho places so there’s really no need to go else where.

  4. I don’t much like most yelpers either. Chowhound is much better. no bullshit there. everytime i log on to yelp it makes me sad. So many fake foodies.

    Fact: on yelp in and out has a better rating than any restaurant i have ever been to… including Mark Gold’s eva, Jose andre’s Bazaar, and fraiche. smh

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