Paul’s Kitchen is a notable legacy business that survives in the former Market Chinatown district, today known as the Fashion District. While the building dates to 1968, the restaurant on the ground floor—now in its second location—first opened in 1946, making it one of the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles.
Paul Yee opened Paul's Café in 1946 on San Julian Street, one block west of its current location. Born in China, Paul immigrated to the U.S. in his 20s, bringing with him his wife, young son, and restaurant experience. He settled in the Market Chinatown neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, where he opened his restaurant.
The restaurant moved to its current location in the 1960s when the Bow On Benevolent Association—a mutual benefit corporation formed by several local Chinese families—built the present structure in 1968, with tenant space on the ground floor for Paul’s Kitchen. Noted Chinese American architect Gilbert Leong designed the building. Leong also designed several of the buildings in New Chinatown.
For several decades, Paul’s Kitchen operated two locations at the same time—the primary downtown location, in addition to a former location in West Adams for a time, followed by a location in Monterey Park, which operated from about 1972 through 2010.
The 1968 interior, now 50 years old, remains intact. It retains its original terrazzo floor, counter seating, globe light fixtures, perforated acoustical ceiling tiles, and decorative pink screens separating the two dining rooms.
One of the restaurant’s most notable patrons is former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who discovered the restaurant in the 1970s and became a regular, bringing his Dodgers team for postgame meals. The area behind the counter is filled with photographs of past Dodgers team members, and the menu contains the “Tommy Lasorda Special.”
The business remains in the family and is currently managed by Paul’s nephew, Charlie Ng. As the downtown L.A. neighborhood changes, Paul's Kitchen endures. In 2013, the Los Angeles Times featured the restaurant in the article, "Paul’s Kitchen hangs on as City Market Chinatown fades away."