As part of my recent explorations of this pocket of Pasadena - North Lake Ave. and its sidestreets - I noticed The Reyn, an unremarkable-looking coffee shop on the corner of Lake and Earlham with curtains in the windows and a "closed" sign that seems to always be on display, the kind of place I hope my diner-loving Elizabeth does not see and suggest we patronize.
A couple months ago, my mom and brother invited me to meet them there for lunch. I couldn't, but I still expressed my surprise that they would choose such a place.
"It's got great pho and some of the best spring rolls you will ever eat," I was told.
I have to admit, I did not see that coming.
I went online and read a few reviews of the place, many of which echoed my mom's opinion. Apparently The Reyn is indeed a coffee shop, but it also doubles as a fairly authentic Vietnamese noodle house. The San Gabriel Valley never fails to impress me. This was not quite in line with New England Fish & Chips & Chinese Food, but it still made me happy.
Yesterday I was volunteering for a couple hours in that area, at the non-profit my where my mom works, and she suggested we go to lunch.
"No thanks," I said, "I'm focusing on getting these things done."
"Well," she said, "I'm going to get some spring rolls at The Reyn."
"Well, okay, I'll go there."
So we walked up to the coffee shop and a few feet away noticed a sign on the door reading: "No pho today until after 3 PM." No problem, I thought, I was actually more interested in the spring rolls anyway. Inside The Reyn is exactly what you would expect: booths a shade of blue not of this Earth, dirty dishes piled in buckets in full view of all the diners, and lottery forms on the tables. I felt like I'd stumbled onto the set of To Live and Die in L.A. And in no way is that a bad thing.
We ordered some spring rolls, only to be informed that not only was there no pho, there was no Vietnamese food of any kind until after 3. That was disappointing. I briefly considered whether we should just walk the one block to Slaw Dogs, but by this point it was after noon and I figured there might be a wait. Since there was only one other customer in the joint - listening to headphones and taking an inordinately long time with his food, basically exactly the kind of customer you would expect to be here - I thought what the hell, at least it won't take long.
I looked at the menu, although I probably could have guessed what it was going to be with 98% accuracy. I ordered a Reuben; my mom ordered a BLT with avocado. Maybe the food wasn't actually ready in three minutes, but it certainly seemed that way. (It might have been four minutes.) I had requested the Reuben on sourdough (I like that better than rye) and it looked decent, if a little small. My mom's sandwich was much bigger, with a fair amount of tomato and avocado.
I took a bite. The corned beef was acceptable although there was way too much fat on it. By the time I pulled off the large pieces of fat, the already small sandwich was even smaller. The fries were average - my mom had wisely ordered them well done and those were much better than mine; when she was done I ate a couple handfuls of her fries - but nothing special. It was just regular diner food.
I will never, ever eat this kind of food at The Reyn again, but I am certainly willing to go back sometime and try their pho and spring rolls.