Pho Everest is a small Vietnamese restaurant located in the Crossing shopping center at Dodd Blvd. and Cedar Avenue in Lakeville (a small southern suburb of the Twin Cities). And no, I don’t know why a Vietnamese restaurant has Everest in its name. I can tell you confidently that it’s not at the peak of the Vietnamese food scene in the Twin Cities and environs; but for where it is and what it is it’s quite good. And for those of us who live further south still it’s a welcome recent addition to our dining options when not wanting to drive all the way to the Cities, or when needing to pick up a quick bánh mi on the way to the airport, or wanting to eat something other than a burger after a movie in Lakeville or Apple Valley and so forth. In fact, I may be talking myself into another visit after my planned Star Wars matinee outing tomorrow.
They opened earlier this summer (I think) and seem to be sticking. On my recent visits for weekday lunch they’ve had a steady trickle of dine-in and take-out customers. They seem to still be in a bit of an “education” phase with some of their clientele—the staff are always trying to convince some fraction of diners that they should try the pho etc. on their next visit, but those conversations seem less insistent lately than they were in the summer. In general, it seems to me that Vietnamese food of this kind should be the easiest sell for wary midwesterners (especially in small southern Minnesota towns): it’s generally mild and hearty and a bowl of pho doesn’t need to be excellent to be welcome as the maximum temperatures dip below freezing (as is finally happening in our unusually warm December).
As it happens, their pho probably isn’t their strongest suit. I’ve had it a few times now and found it to be somewhat variable, sometimes in terms of the beefiness of the broth, sometimes in terms of the onioniness. It’s never been close to bad, however; just not as good as you can get in the Hmong/Vietnamese corridor on University Ave. in St. Paul, and probably just a little bit below Cam Ranh Bay in Burnsville as well. My preference is for their versions with some combination of rare steak, flank and brisket; but then I’m not a big fan of the meatballs that go in pho anywhere in the area. For those who don’t eat red meat, they also have a chicken version.
Their bánh mi are better—though these could also consistently use a little more paté than they sometimes use. We’ve picked these up a number of times: it’s a particularly convenient stop in the summer for us, as we drive up Cedar for picnics at Lake Nokomis or to the airport (the other people on our flights are probably less enthused about our unwrapping the fragrant sandwiches midflight). You can get them with ham, pork roll, grilled pork, chicken. My preference is for the grilled pork. Also on the menu are Vietnamese spring rolls, egg rolls, noodle salads and a range of grilled meats with rice. All of these are generally solid and the last mentioned are particularly kid-friendly, as the marinade is mild and sweet.
It’s an uncomplicated affair: you order and pay up-front at the cashier—which also gives you the option of looking at any of the grilled meats etc. that might be on the adjoining steam table. They bring out the food when it’s ready and you get your own drinks from the fountain. There’s ample seating at tables and countertops along the front. They’ve had a revolving group of native English speakers staffing the order desk, and this has doubtless also helped with convincing some of the warier locals to try more of their fare. Oh yes, the prices are reasonable and portions large.
For pictures of some of the things we’ve eaten there see below.
Again, I am not making over-large claims for Pho Everest. It’s an unambitious, casual restaurant serving food that’s generally in the B-/B range and not trying to go over. No one should drive down from the Cities to eat here. But if you’re in the neighbourhood or, like us, live in a town with non-existent or unacceptable Asian food, it’s a nice option. For that reason alone it’s worth supporting.