Black Pepper Pho keeps the menu small and the quality high

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Grilled meat bun at Black Pepper Pho
Susan France

You may have noticed that menus are shrinking. No, that’s not an index card on your table, that’s the menu.

People like it that way, both consumers and restaurateurs. Technomic Inc., an all-things-food consulting firm, found that the total number of menu items at the nation’s top 500 restaurant chains declined by 7 percent from 2013 to 2014. 

It’s clichéd, but quality over quantity is the law of the restaurant land. In this day and age, millennials (a demographic businesses across the board clamor to please while simultaneously blaming for everything that sucks) value high-quality, low-cost local food.

And frankly, who doesn’t value high-quality, low-cost local food? Age demographic be damned.

Eateries with small menus are capable of serving customers faster. They’re able to add more locally sourced ingredients because the number of dishes is fewer. A restaurant can emphasize a few items and really make them sing.

The small menu tactic is one of the tricks at Black Pepper Pho.

When you head to a pho restaurant, you’ve pretty much decided what you want to eat. That being said, heading to Black Pepper doesn’t mean you have to order pho.

Those who crave noodles but aren’t interested in soup might consider trying a dry noodle dish, called bún in Vietnamese (pronounced boon, like soon, much like pho is pronounced fuh, like duh). Contrary to the name, the noodles aren’t dry but simply drained and served at room temperature underneath grilled meat (never fear, tofu’s an option too), lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrot, daikon, mint, cilantro and shallots.

Best part? There’s a built-in appetizer of egg rolls with every bowl of bún — thin, crispy, golden cylinders of delight placed at the side of your bowl for enjoyment throughout your meal.

(Deep Dish Digression: Food history buffs have determined egg rolls were created by Chinese restaurateurs in the U.S. in the 1930s. The more you know!)

Maybe the egg rolls aren’t even really the best part. It’s pretty rare to walk into a place and not have to worry about your allergies. All of the food at Black Pepper is free of MSG, GMOs and nuts. And if you’ve got 99 problems and one of them is intolerance to gluten, Black Pepper is your haven.

It should be noted that the small-menu tactic is employed in tandem with the cozy-space tactic at Black Pepper. The smaller space — not crowded, mind you — gives servers the opportunity to see all of their guests at a glance, and gives guests a homey atmosphere in which to dine. It all adds up to great service in a great atmosphere.

So just remember: Size isn’t everything.

Black Pepper Pho. 2770 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-440-1948