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Attention LA old-timers... Is it Paul's Kitchen I'm thinking of? (divey Chinese)

  • m

Many years ago, before I knew much about authentic Chinese food (and before I really started exploring the SGV or downtown LA for excellent grub in earnest), an old boss took me to a place which I think was called Paul's Kitchen. I only know that it was in a shabby part of downtown, and the food reminded me quite a bit of the highly inauthentic but delicious stuff from back home.

In reading a recent post on 1960's LA Chinese menus from the General Topics board (linked below), my memory was jogged and I'm wondering why I've never seen the place mentioned here on the LA board.

What's the history of this place? Why the non-Chinesey sounding name? Now that my palate has been wildly expanded, I wonder if the place would still hold the same nostalgia for me (or is it just greasy, bad, Americanized Chinese after all)?

I'm contemplating a trip back (with my Taiwanese girlfriend, who finds Americanized Chinese food bad but entertaining) as an experiment.

Your opinions, hounds?

Mr. Taster

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. We used to go to Paul's all the time. I think it may still be there, iirc, on San Pedro Street. Last time I was there was about 15 years ago. This was the kind of Chinese food I grew up on, and despite its Amercanized inauthenticity, I still love it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LBQT

      Paul's is great. I have had the food. the meal is good, but in a rough part of downtown. it has its own parking. The food is great, just a little too much MSG. I now its bad, but it taste so damn good. if you have been you will be back. but i do worn u, the MSG might slow down your day a bit. Tommy lasorda eats it and most of the former dodgers.

      food: 5
      service: 3
      presentation: 3
      Pricing: 4

      Notes: get ready for a belly busting eveing. if you cant handle real food, dont eat. ** warning NOT a Lite healthy meal. but then again what is these days...


    2. Mr Taster,

      I've never been to the Paul's Kitchen in LA, but for the past 30 years have frequented their other Paul's Kitchen restaurant in Monterey Park, which serves wonderful "old school" Cantonese dishes. I love their chow meins, chop sueys, egg foo youngs, and bbq pork (chashu). Even the owner's son has told me that the food at the Monterey Park restaurant is better than their LA location.

      Paul's Kitchen
      1950 So. Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park
      just north of the Atlantic Square Shopping Center

      1 Reply
      1. re: John

        I tried the L.A. location earlier this year and was underwhelmed by the food. I love kitschy restaurants and don't require authenticity by any means. The place looked the part but the food we tried was very bland and dull and just not worth even finishing half. Maybe we ordered poorly, but I'm sure we got some of the basics (don't remember exactly what).

      2. It's still there.
        San Pedro @ 8th.

        1. As a native Angelino who remembers the 1940's in L.A. as a child I went to a few of the aforementioned Chinese places many years ago. I went to both the New Moon and Paul's as a child and into my college years.

          I took my wife (native midwesterner) to show her what old L.A. was like last month. We ate at Paul's and the food is how I remembered from childhood. The old style almond duck was absolutely fantastic(or was it just the fond memory of times past?). The neighborhood is indeed fallen on hard times, but is perfectly safe. Parking is free in the lot in front of the restaurant. I do intend to visit the other location and also give the New Formosa a try before its end which I guess will be when the old couple who own it can no longer run it themselves.

          1. g

            I just checked, both the L.A. Wholesale Produce Mart and Monterey Park iterations of PAUL'S KITCHEN are waiting to serve you steaming hot pakkai and egg fooyung on dome-tropped stainless steel platter.
            1950 S. Atlantic Blvd, 323-724-1855
            1012 S. San Pedro St. 213-749-5004


            1. Paul's Kitchen is a Los Angeles institution. Back before there was the Chinatown you know now, this was where Chinatown was. I'm Chinese American and it reminds me of the Cantonese food of my childhood. Take it for what its worth, old school Americanized Chinese food. Ask for the seaweed soup(comes with your meal), order the BBQ pork chow mein or tomato beef chow mein,almond duck and maybe some BBQ pork fried rice. They make their own Chinese sausage which is pretty good too. The hom yu pork hash is a classic there. Japanese American's love the one in Monterey Park and Hispanics love to eat there too...so there must be something to it.
              Hey, its one of Tommy Lasorda's favorite restaurants in LA.

              1. Go try it, it's great. Far less greasy than many "authentic" places. Some dishes are just okay, but others are a real treat. I like the Curry Tomato Beef Chow Mien with extra curry. As mentioned earlier, the sausages are something not to miss too. And the Chinese Chicken Salad is the closest thing to the old New Moon. I see a lot of people ordering the Egg Foo, but I've never had it myself, so I can't vouch.

                If you are in a divey Cantonese mood, you may want to give Kim's a try down on 3860 Crenshaw - it's in the back of the mall, you can't see it from the street. They have many Cantonese dishes I've never had anywhere else. One was this terrific egg, spinach and ground pork dish which may or may not be on the menu, but they'll make it for you.

                1. Hey Jerome, I'm curious about your take on this place...? I know you like the occasional dive as well as the authentic, and I wonder which way you'd go on this one.

                  Mr. Taster

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Mr. Taster

                    Hey Taster:
                    haven't been. Doesn't sound like something I'd rush out for. I do like the old "americo-canto" style for the pupu platters to go with an umbrella drink.

                    But frankly, wouldn't you rather find a cool zhou/juk/xifan house? I heard talk of one that serves buckwheat porridge. Anyone have any ideas where that may be? (qiaomai zhou).

                    1. re: Jerome

                      No idea... would love to find out more.....

                      Mr. Taster

                      1. re: Jerome

                        Your loss, the food tastes great.

                    2. Paul's Kitchen was where I first had chachu pork, great stuff. It was also the first place I saw ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles openly displayed at any Chinese restaurant. It was weird, but that, along with the TV blaring at the bar seemed to add to the unique charm.

                      There used to be 2-3 other good places within a block of Paul's including the New Moon Cafe and the venerable Man Fook Lo.

                      Those were the days...

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Tusc

                        My family went to Man Fook Low for years. We loved it when we were kids and looked forward to having shrimp in lobster sauce , asparagus beef and A's, B's, and Cs. What I didn't know at the time was that we were eating dim sum- shui mai, har gow and pork buns designated as A, B, and C on the menu. We loved our waiter, Albert, who probably had worked there for 50 years. Occasionally we went to Paul's Kitchen and had their chinese sausage. I didn't realize they were still open. There also used to be a fortune cookie factory next to Man Fook Low. Maybe it's still there. This brings back great memories....

                        1. re: Mushky


                          Did you know my Dad (Yee) at Man Fook Low? I'd be really interested in any old timers sharing their stories about old Man Fook Low especially about my Dad. Thank you!

                          1. re: prc49


                            I really can't remember anyone at Man Fook Low other than Albert. We all liked him so much. I think our family ate there thru the 60's and early 70's. My parents miight have gone there even earlier. Is this the time period your Dad was there? I will have to ask my Dad if he remembers your Dad- Yee. I hope he does!

                            1. re: prc49

                              Man does this thread bring back memories. When I was a young pup and never had Chinese food I went with my older brother and a friend of his to Paul's. I thought Chinese food was YUK! (I was not very adventurous in those days) so my brother ordered the spare ribs for me, which I remember liking.

                              When I was older I went often to MFL, but to make reservations easier I used the name Young. Yee always greeted me "AH, Mr. Young, how are you:?"
                              Later when I took a date there (who later became my wife), he greeted me and she looked around wondering who in the heck he was talking to!!! He continued to call me Mr. Young which my then wife and her family always got a big kick out of. How is he? Didn't his wife (your mother) own a card or gift shop somewhere?

                              Yee always took great care of us, seating us upstairs. The pinapple chicken wings were the best!!

                              OOOOOOOOOhhh, the memories!

                              1. re: LesThePress

                                Mushky & LesThePress,

                                Thank you for posting about MFL! Both Mom/Dad are fine. I will ask him if he remembers "Mr. Young." Please post again if you can think of anything else.

                                1. re: prc49

                                  Hi all. If you want to continue this discussion please do so via private email.

                                  Thanks for everyone's cooperation.

                                  1. re: prc49

                                    PRC, Glad to hear they're doing great. My wife's father was Mr. Michealson! I'm sure hell remember him. Let me know at Lesthepress@yahoo.com since we're getting off chow talk.


                                  2. re: LesThePress

                                    i was an a b @c lover at mfl during the 60 s & 70s till they closed.i remember kenny what happened to him ?

                                  3. re: prc49

                                    Yes, I knew your dad Yee at Man Fook Low. We used to go there all the time in the 1960s. Our servers were either your dad (Yee) or Albert. They were both great. Yee was a bit of a showman, barking at the customers, pretending to be impatient, telling you what to order, etc. But it was all done in good fun, and everyone loved him. We also loved Albert, who was like your kindly uncle.

                                    The food there was great, at least in my memory. Simple Cantonese food well prepared and served straight from the stove. I really miss the abalone soup, which you can't get any more.

                                    I recently went to Paul's Kitchen down the street. It's still very much the same too.

                                    There was another place called Paul's, on St. Julian Street.

                                    All of these restaurants served the wholesale produce market across the street (where my mom worked), and Paul's Kitchen still does.

                                    We have all gotten a lot more sophisticated about food over the years, and there are all kinds of fancy and "authentic" Chinese restaurants, but there's nothing "wrong" with the old-style, "inauthentic" stuff at places like Man Fook Low and the others. It was good, and now, after all these years, provides many fond memories of my childhood and my family when we were all together.

                                    1. re: prc49

                                      Look at my post above. Maybe your Dad was one of the guys who paid attention to our son. I posted to this subject but it didn't get printed. What I said was that my wife and I took our son, then six weeks old, on his first restaurant trip in a plastic shell seat with a handle, and put him on the table while we ordered and ate. The waiters who were normally kind of tactiturn, really lit up and smiled at and talked to the baby, who sat quietly through our meal. We considered it quite a feat to have friendly waiters at Man Fook Low, where the food was always good by our standards some thirty-five years ago. Do anyone remember Yee Mee Loo? I used to have their wor won ton which was great.

                                    2. re: Mushky

                                      The fortune cookie factory is located on 9th place and san pedro. it's called hong kong noodle co. they've been there since 1913 making the same fresh noodles, dry noodles, dumpling and wonton wrappers. unfortunately they don't make fortune cookies anymore.

                                      other restaurants around there that serviced the old city market and neighboring communities were modern cafe, new york cafe, one more that escapes me at the moment but it was another cafe. these were all on the same block as man fook low. man fook low turned into setha's thai/chinese cuisine. the restaurant is now a laundry dry cleaners and the corner is now a korean restaurant. setha's thai/chinese cuisine moved over to the side of the building on 10th and san pedro.

                                      after wing chong lung and new moon closed, new moon moved down to i think main/broadway and 9th street. they may have closed down now.

                                      i think thats about it. i'd love to hear more about the neighborhood as there is absolutely no historical documentation on the area known as 'chinatown #2'

                                      1. re: phant0omx

                                        In the later years (60s and 70s) there were On Luck Restaurant and Li Wah Cafe on San Pedro between 9th and 10th Streets. On Luck was the successor to Moon Palace which was there in the 50s and early 60s. There is some historical documentation on the City Market Chinatown, such as an article I wrote in the 1970s called the "Five Chinatowns of Los Angeles."

                                  4. I'm beginning to wonder if Yee's, that ancient place on Slauson, had it's beginnings in this '60s rennaisance of american/chinese places. It's been there at least since the '70s (actually moved directly across the street from the original spot on Overhill/Slauson).

                                    1. The New Moon Cafe is still alive and well at the corner of 9th and Main/Spring Streets. They still serve the same delicious Chinese Chicken Salad that was served in the former location on San Pero just south of 9th Street.

                                      1. Pauls Kitchen in LA was sold years ago, I went there a few times after he sold and it was gross. Pauls kitchen in MP was run by his son. I have not been in a few years, so I would verify.

                                        1. I got some great responses to the same topic earlier this year.
                                          Pauls's in DT LA is a throw back to yester year chinese cafe/diner food.
                                          Food was okay but it sent me back to my childhood more then anything

                                          1. Like you, I have memories of great, though probably non-authentic Chinese food at several questionable-looking places off of 9th and San Pedro. Chief among them was Man Fook Low - the first place I experiences Chinese mustard ... sometime in the 1950's. They also server leychee nut duck and fresh tomato beef. It happens that Paul was the chef at Man Fook Low who decided it was time to go out on his own ... and he did. Hence: Paul's Kitchen. I hope that helps.