Paschal’s restaurant does more than serve soul food. It is an Atlanta institution that serves as a monument to history and hope. It is a blueprint for success and longevity.
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Founded in 1947 by two brothers, Robert and James Paschal, the restaurant started as a sandwich shop that didn’t even have a stove. The brothers would cook in their home and transport the food by taxi to the restaurant. The specialty was a 52-cent fried chicken sandwich.
After the first year of business, the brothers required additional space and by the late 1950s, Paschal’s was so successful it had to be moved to a larger building. The menu now included classic soul food favorites, such as fried chicken, collard greens, candied yams, and peach cobbler. Over time, the restaurant garnered attention nationwide and became a place where all were welcomed. Where Blacks and whites dined in fellowship and conversed over good food.
The restaurant also served as the backdrop for community leaders and the civil rights movement. It was the meeting place where Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Ralph David Abernathy, and other civil rights leaders would come together to plan and strategize as they fought for equality. A place where the Black community could feel safe. To this day the walls are adorned with old photos that showcase the vast historical significance of this institution.
As a young adult I can remember, my first time visiting Atlanta, and the anticipation of dining at this famous establishment owned by people who look like myself. It gave me such a sense of pride, as I walked through the door of what my people can do with hard work and determination. My fried chicken dinner was a feast that I have never forgotten.
That was over 40 years ago. The location has changed, but Paschal’s has remained steadfast in embodying the values of community and serving up delicious soul food.
Now, as a restaurateur myself, I too understand the importance of being a beacon to our community as well as serving good food. A place that is a safe haven in the midst of unrest. I only hope that one day my beacon shines as brightly as Paschal’s.
Paschal’s: 180 Northside Drive SW, Atlanta. www.paschalsatlanta.com
Deborah VanTrece is the chef and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours in Atlanta.