Evey’s Café and Lounge in Pe Ell appears unassuming at first glance, housed as it is in an old school. A deeper dive, though, reveals layers of complexity. The café is a vital part of the town and has been for nearly four decades. In fact, Evey’s Café looms large when considering its history of taking care of neighbors and not just by satisfying physical hunger.
When someone in the community is in need, Evey’s staff step in to assist, usually by organizing a raffle. They provide the home base for businesses and individuals to drop off donations, along with selling tickets and holding the drawing. One raffle to support Sue, an Evey’s cook diagnosed with cancer, brought in about $3,000 to help with her medical and other expenses. Another provided a family with funeral costs after the tragic death of a young man.
“Giving back is important to me personally and we will continue to do it,” says Evey’s current owner Janet Toepelt. Her eyes shine with tears as she explains how her 18-year-old daughter Taylor was born with Down Syndrome, as well as a hole in her heart. She needed open-heart surgery at five and a half months old. When word got out, the whole town came together to help the family.
When Janet took over Evey’s in 2017, the main motivation was helping her daughter. Even though Taylor has multiple dreams for her future (including being a dog groomer or a WWE wrestler), Janet knows Evey’s offers a stable future by way of a guaranteed job…if needed. Taylor currently helps on Fridays, since Pe Ell moved to a four-day school week, and the weekends.
Meanwhile, Janet’s history at Evey’s goes back much further. She started working there in 1999 under the original owner, Sharon Justice. In 2003, Janet quit to pursue another job but missed the restaurant so much she came back several months later. Co-workers and customers are like her family.
A fellow employee, Renee Davis, shares that sentiment. During her 20+ year run at Evey’s, she has left a couple of times to be a stay-at-home mom and try a different career, but she always comes back. The reason is simple. “It’s home,” says Renee. She and Janet laugh about how they read each other’s thoughts from so much time spent together. They also know their customers well – their families, the details of their lives, and of course, their orders.
Another reason Janet decided to take over Evey’s was not wanting to see the restaurant change. A new owner might come in and follow the path of convenience by serving store-bought pies and fewer items made from scratch. Gary, a gentleman who comes in one or two times a week, gushes about the pies and the Evey’s Burger.
Gary also appreciates the people and jokes about the staff putting up with him. “Well, they haven’t had a marshal haul me out, yet,” he says. Another regular would come in daily but then wasn’t around for a couple of days. Janet made a trip to his house to make sure he was okay. Turns out, his doctor told him to eat a healthier diet, so he was home munching on an apple. Even so, Janet’s gesture lifted his spirits through the roof.
Evey’s is open every day. Prime Rib Nights, the first Friday of the month are usually the busiest, serving 40-50 plates of prime rib, along with other meals. It’s a family affair with Taylor and Janet’s husband pitching in to handle the crowds. In addition to prime rib, Evey’s rotates through other specials each weekend, including chicken parmesan or a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. As for the menu items, favorites include the jumbo bacon burger, the porkies sandwich and the berry rolls, which are like cinnamon rolls amped up with homemade marionberry jam. Many out of towners make a special trip to get their fill on the way to/from Oregon or the coast.
As for Evey? She doesn’t exist, or at least, not in the restaurant’s linear history. Joan, daughter of original owner Sharon, once worked for a cranky old lady named Evey at a cafe in Oregon. When Joan started dating her future husband Mike, he called Sharon “Evey” as a joke. It just stuck. Joan later took over from her mom, before turning the reins over to Janet. Surely, the real Evey, even with her curmudgeonly ways, would approve of this special place and the people who give it heart.
Evey’s Café and Lounge is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Evey’s Café and Lounge
416 N. Main Street