It looks sketchy but smells promising, I thought on climbing down the stairs to this basement restaurant on Nicollet Ave. There are white fluorescent lights and a distinctly old-school Chinatown aesthetic. The apparent owner is working the room himself, taking orders in haphazard fashion, while a younger woman (daughter?) is playing with her phone at the front counter. It is 8 pm, and the room is sparsely filled with grad students and a group of feisty older women. It looks like Evergreen is struggling to compete with more bourgeois restaurants down Eat Street, but it has its loyal clients. The menu certainly isn’t dressed up with pretty phrases – it’s long and descriptive, just as I like, and worthy of your careful study.
Evergreen is distinctive for being able to make everything on the menu vegetarian, and it also has a good long list of straight-up vegetable options. I opted for the strangest sounding starter, a squid soup with fish paste – but sorry, they were out. The wonton soup I settled for was nevertheless fine, appropriately mild flavored without being bland. For main course I had a hard time choosing between an item on the chef’s recommended list, Three Cup Tofu (with rice wine, ginger, garlic, and basil) and Black Mushrooms with Tofu, opted for the former, and was glad I did. The tofu squares were fried (not very healthy) and lightly bathed in tangy, garlicky, soy-based sauce as well as lots of Thai horapa basil. My friend’s stir-fried vegetables were a good complement – a mix of snow peas, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and some usual Chinese-American suspects (celery, water chestnut, carrot). The portions were generous but we polished them off.
In conclusion: order from the chef’s specials, go for the stuff that sounds different (it’s usually Taiwanese), and plan on rounding off your evening in warmer light and bourgie comfort elsewhere.