Lifelong Richmond resident and Pearl Harbor survivor Paul Brittenham passed away on Oct. 5, 2011 at the ripe old age of 94, but his legacy lives on at the popular northside diner he founded back in 1948.
Brittenham opened Paulee Restaurant several years after returning home from his military service tour. A businessman first and foremost, he knew his profits depended on frequent turnover. With just 10 seats to work with, Brittenham discouraged dawdling, often telling customers to “eat and get out!” His loyal patrons didn’t mind, and the winning combination of good food and fair prices kept them coming back. The restaurant still draws crowds of devoted regulars, some who’ve been known to come in for breakfast, leave and then return a few hours later for lunch.
An on-site fixture for decades, Brittenham retired just a few years ago at age 89, passing the torch to Jenny Orbik, a loyal employee who had worked for him for 20 years and didn’t want to see the restaurant close. Orbik has made the business a family affair; her son Josh and daughter Jessica can be found helping out behind the counter on any given day.
Not much has changed at Paulee through the years. The joint still serves good, no-nonsense food in a nostalgic diner atmosphere, much as it did when it opened decades ago. If you’re in the mood for a hearty basic breakfast, this is the place to go. Eggs come any way you want alongside toast and meat choices that include bacon, fresh or smoked sausage, ham, chopped steak, pork chop and even tenderloin. Biscuits and gravy fans take note – the recipe at Paulee is top-notch, and available in one, two and three biscuit portions to please any appetite. The three-egg omelets are another popular breakfast choice, and if you need a sweet treat, Paulee carries donuts and Danishes from local bakeries.
For lunch, Paulee offers a lineup of classic burgers, sandwiches and soups, along with an old-fashioned daily special along the lines of cabbage rolls, tuna casserole or green beans stewed with sausage and potatoes.
Today, Paulee Restaurant finds itself ideally situated amid prime real estate in Richmond’s emerging Historic Depot District. Neighborhood improvements, the renovation of the depot itself, and the addition of new businesses are attracting a whole new generation of clientele to the area, many happy to be discovering Paulee for the first time.
Whether you come in for breakfast or lunch, you’ll find Paulee’s prices more than reasonable for the amount and quality of food. Just don’t forget to hit the ATM first, this cash-only diner doesn’t accept credit cards.420 N. 8th St., Richmond