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  • Tessa Gilreath

Fuel for Justice - Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & The Legendary Paschal's Restaurant, Atlanta


Photo credit: Paschal's (www.paschalsatlanta.com)

One of the most captivating things to me about matchbooks is the history that goes along with them. Not just the history of the establishment itself, but the moments that happen within the actual walls. Perhaps small moments like whispers in a library. If you’re not paying close enough attention, the words could evaporate into thin air like they were never said at all. And what about the big, loud moments that have gone down in history and have been told over and over until the details become like a game of telephone, unsure of the origin and accuracy, yet the potency of the legend remains.


Over the weekend I spent not one, but two nights at Old Ebbitt’s Grill, Washington’s oldest saloon founded in 1858. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander off speculating what significant political deals were scribbled on napkins or which loaded rivalries festered at every order of another round, as if the bourbon itself could boil over like a pot on the stove about to explode. History is so often a game of imagination, conjuring up tales in our heads of what might have been based on the limited things we know. I’m in continued awe of the power restaurants, bars, saloons, and cafes carry far beyond their ability to serve up meals and libations. They offer space for our stories to unfold and be told.


Image credit: Wikipedia
Image credit: Eater DC

On this day naturally my thoughts are heavily occupied by the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. A legacy that feels more fragile than ever as our country’s political state continues to divide and betray certain truths so many of us believed had already been realized thanks to MLK’s fierce bravery, acumen, and self-sacrifice. In my reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder where his “safe place” was to regroup, meet, and strategize over a comforting meal that doubled as fuel to keep fighting for justice.


In my pursuit of finding the answer, it didn’t take me long to uncover Paschal’s, an Atlanta staple since 1947 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite restaurant. Paschal’s was known to be the gathering place after protests, arrests, beatings, and both victories and defeats. Acting as a confluence for Civil Rights policy, prolific leaders in addition to Dr. King, such as John Lewis, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, and Andrew Young to name a few frequented Paschal’s.










According to UK based Culinary Collective, Twisted, John Lewis revealed in a New York Times obituary in honor of the restaurants' founder Robert Paschal, that the Atlanta haven was the last place he had seen Dr. King alive before his assassination. Lewis was quoted to state that “some of the decisions that affected the direction of the country were made in that restaurant.”


Even today, Paschal’s continues to be a marker for political gatherings, a place where both Democrats and Republicans stop off on their campaign trails. The restaurant is proud to offer a place for conversation and to honor their heritage of service and community.


So, what are these leaders, visitors and tourists alike ordering when they step foot into the iconic Paschal’s? From what I gather it sounds like you’d be amiss to not order their famous fried chicken, a recipe that has not changed since the opening in 1947, with exception to one ingredient. They now use oil rather than lard (clean eaters rejoice!)

Although the fried chicken is their most popular dish, I am certainly not counting out their Voodoo Fried Shrimp, Fried Green Tomatoes and I have a feeling I might spot their Southern Mac & Cheese in my dreams one of these nights.


While Paschal’s remains an institution in Atlanta, it has not been bullet proof to facing major struggle due to the pandemic. From new regulations to menu changes, the team faced Covid-19's challenges with grit and determination while remaining steadfast in offering the highest quality experience to their patrons. It comes as no surprise to me that the staff at Paschal's operates with determination, much like their many famous customers during the Civil Rights Movement.


Photo credit: Paschal's (www.paschalsatlanta.com)

After learning about the restaurants' storied history, they endeared themselves to me without ever even visiting Atlanta before. I’m already looking at flights for a weekend visit to pay respect and support to Paschal’s, both a restaurant and beacon of hope and history.


Today the restaurant’s Instagram post (@paschalsrestaurant) honoring MLK day poses a simple request: Do something in your community. With that, I am reporting for duty and am also sending a big thank you to this scared place for leading by example.

For more information on Paschal's Restaurant:

180 Northside Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30313

Phone: (404) 835-0833

Instagram: @paschalsrestaurant

Reservations: www.opentable.com

Restaurant website: https://www.paschalsatlanta.com/


For more information on Old Ebbitt's Grill

675 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Phone ((202) 347-4800)

Instagram: @oldebbitt

Reservations: www.opentable.com

Restaurant website: www.ebbitt.com

Order from Goldbelly: https://www.goldbelly.com/old-ebbitt-grill




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Born in San Francisco and raised by two native New Yorkers, a deep appreciation for great cities and their iconic establishments was instilled in me from a very young age. More importantly, admiration