Evergreen Garden – Vietnamese old faithful

Evergreen Garden, 3100 18th Street.

I’ve driven by Evergreen for many years and never stopped in. The outside almost looks like someone’s low-slung house, maybe a house that hasn’t been looked after all that well. The neighborhood has picked up a lot in recent years, with the addition of businesses like Mission Cliffs and Heath Ceramics, techy firms, as well as old theater crowds from the Theater Yugen at Noh Space complex. It isn’t fancy, but it seems to be a go-to for people in the neighborhood.

The current owner told me he has owned the restaurant for eight years now, but Evergreen Garden has sat in this location, as a Vietnamese restaurant under different ownership, for 20+ years. I also understand they’re popular at lunch, as people like to sit on the outside patio on a nice day. In fact, the BF told me he used to frequent Evergreen back in the late 80s when he was working nearby, as it was always reliable and cheap. It’s a no-frills kind of place, but who needs frills if your food is good?

On our first visit together, I ordered a favorite dish, bánh xèo to share.

Bahn xeo.

An exceptionally delicious version! I think this is the first time I’ve actually been able to taste coconut milk in the batter. The crepe itself is a nice combo of a shatteringly crispy exterior enveloping a creamy inside. It’s a light dish, filled with sprouts, slices of pork and shrimp, and served with a plethora of herbs and lettuce leaves for wrapping, and nước chấm – that heavenly fish saucy/sweet and tangy sauce for dipping. It’s a messy dish that leaves your hands and face all sticky (or is that just me?) but beaming with pleasure. And it’s deceptively filling; the BF ate maybe a quarter of this and the rest was all mine.

For his main, the BF thought he’d ordered his favorite Vietnamese dish, bún thịt nướng chả giò, but apparently he’d forgotten the chả giò part.

Bun thit.

Cold vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, pickled daikon & carrots, and peanuts, also served with nước chấm sauce. But no crispy Imperial rolls on top! He asked the waiter to add one to the dish (who eats just one Imperial roll??) and they fried it up for him. The pork was incredibly flavorful, with a perfect char, and not dry in the least, as some we’ve had. The Imperial roll was crispy and greaseless.

I was craving soup, so I ordered the phở táii.

Pho tai.

I had been looking at the sampler – brisket, flank, tendon and tripe – but I hesitated for a split second and the waiter suggested just the rare beef. Which was more than fine. It came with the usual accompaniments – basil, mint, sprouts, and jalapenos – and the broth was really delicious and warming. It wasn’t too 5-spicy, but had a really good depth of flavor, and there was just enough beef. It was way too much food after the crepe – 99% of the phở came home with us, providing us each a bowl for dinner the next night. Phở is one of those gifts that keeps on giving!

On our second visit, we shared shrimp spring rolls, or gỏi cuốn, which were nicely fresh and crunchy, with the usual peanut sauce.

Shrimp rolls.

I had another bowl of soup. I don’t know enough about phở to know the difference, but this particular soup was listed under the Noodle Soup section, as opposed to the phở section.

Spicy lemon grass and beef noodle soup.

I ordered the spicy lemongrass beef, and really, the only difference I could tell was that the broth was a different flavor, and was described thusly: “Bun Bo Hue – vermicelli noodle in spicy lemongrass soup served with beef slices, fresh basil lemon & bean sprouts.” It was all that and more, although not super spicy. It looked like this when all the accoutrements were added:

Lemongrass beef noodle.

Another huge portion, so again, about 95% of that came home with us.

The BF totally won in the ordering department this night. Evergreen has a Thai food section and a Chinese food section on their menu, which always makes me nervous. How can they do them all well? He ordered Thai garlic noodles, and they were nothing like the Vietnamese garlic noodles we love.

Garlic noodles with bbq pork.

These were fantastic! The dish came with the luscious bbq’d pork. The noodles were slightly crispy and full of that deliciously indescribable wok hei headiness. I would definitely order this again; in fact, I kept eating off the BF’s plate, which is really why most of my soup came home with us, but also, unfortunately, my main dish just wasn’t as good.

Lemon grass beef.

Lemongrass beef. I don’t know why I went with two lemongrass dishes, but it didn’t matter since the lemongrass flavor in my beef was very faint, and I didn’t realize it came with a giant mound of rice, which I just wasn’t in the mood for. The beef was rather tough too.

A shame to end my night this way, but we’d had enough great items to ensure we’ll be back. I love that we tried an old Vietnamese restaurant right under our noses that actually turned out to be our new favorite.

Evergreen Garden Restaurant
3100 18th St. (and Harrison)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 621-8531

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2 Comments

  1. Chad Russo

    I remember when the building housed Tortilla Flats.

  2. James Hawkins

    Mission cliffs has been around since 1995.

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