Organic Classic ‘Paul’s Diner’ Opening Soon

The team behind Victoria’s award-winning Agrius and Fol Epi are opening an organic diner this summer in the city’s historic Paul’s Motor Inn at 1900 Douglas Street. It will be called Paul’s Diner by Fol Epi.

Owner Cliff Leir tells Scout they are taking possession on July 1st. From what I understand the goal is to do a small, week-long renovation, giving the space a good lick of paint and restoring the old bar seating. “The menu will be regional variations on diner classics, using organic ingredients.” Leir says.

Agrius chefs Max Durand and Scott Hopkins are currently working together on menu development, with Hopkins expected to lead the kitchen. They have an opening for a FOH Manager, which we’ll be posting about in our Opportunity Knocks section presently.

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If you don’t know the place at all, Paul’s Motor Inn  – so named after its founder, Paul Arsens – has been a hospitality fixture in Victoria since the day it launched in the mid-1950s. Long before my time it was a proper drive-in operation with two dozen parking spaces for car hop service, plus a cool-as-a-cucumber upstairs hangout called the Copper Lounge (now a popular live music venue called the Copper Owl). Arsens, who passed away in 1997, was something of a good times guy. Legend has it he used to occasionally shut the whole operation down to take his entire staff on crazy trips to Las Vegas and Disneyland. His employees rewarded him with incredible loyalty. I can remember talking to servers and cooks who’d been there for well over 25 years.

I knew the place well having worked at a nearby restaurant called Overtime in the early 1990s. Paul’s was where we’d go to eat french fries and gravy in the wee hours after clocking out. (If I recall correctly, the restaurant was open 24 hrs back then.) Though a little on the seedy side, it was dirt cheap and reliable. Paul’s was like something out of a movie; think American Graffiti if it had been directed by the Coen brothers. It had a lot of mid-century character, not to mention its fair share of characters. That it will be getting a new lease on life is all kinds of exciting, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

There are 6 comments

  1. This is fantastic news! So happy to have another Fol Epi / Agrius outlet opening up, and in such an iconic spot.

    Touching on another point in your piece – I *still* miss the chicken noodle soup from Overtime…

  2. The Chang Mai? I think they still serve it at John’s Place. I worked there too (John Cantin was a partner at Overtime).

  3. Paul Arsens was my grandfather. Paul’s motor inn has a really special place in my heart. So happy to hear of this new lease on life it will have! Thanks for sharing this Scout Mag! Can’t wait to check it out 🙂

  4. Is this the same Paul Arsen’s from the Normandy restaurant on south Granville & 10th in Vancouver?

  5. I’m excited to see the change, my first job was at Paul’s back in the 70’s and I met lifelong friendship and my husband from this job. Great place to work back in the day and was truly hopping back in the 70’s, we even enjoy a trip on the boss to Hawaii back in December 1978. Paul was class all the way and first impressions were very important to him. Paul’s was never a seedy and he would be so disappointed to hear that. Thank you for giving this special place a new lease on life.

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