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What is Paul’s Place?

Ben Steelman

“Famous since 1928,” Paul’s Place, 11725 U.S. 117 South, Rocky Point [Map this], has been a Pender County institution for decades. The name has become synonymous with its famous hot dogs and its trademark relish.

Paul’s Place was opened in 1928 by A.A. Paul — actually a few yards from its present location — as a combination restaurant, country store and service station. (Paul was an enterprising fellow. He’s run a movie theater in Jacksonville, N.C., and sold real estate in Florida until the market there collapsed.)

The original building burned in 1932, and a replacement was built on the same site. In 1951, this building was moved to where it stands today.

The store housed what was supposed to be Pender County’s first telephone. In the old days, it was actually something of a night spot. The Pauls would book small swing bands, and couples would turn out for dinner and dancing.

Originally, Paul’s Place was known for its barbecue. Customers drove from as far as Greensboro to sample its shad roe.

Hot dogs were apparently added to the menu during the Great Depression; before long, A.A. Paul’s son, Beverly Paul, became known as the “Hot Dog King.” During World War II, meat rationing cut off the supply of beef for the restaurant’s trademark chili, so Beverly Paul began experimenting with spices and other ingredients to come up with a meatless chili substitute. The result was Paul’s Special Relish, which became such a hit, the restaurant began selling it by the pint- or quart-sized jar.

Beverly Paul died in 1983 and sons David and Beverly Paul took over the business. In 1992, they opened a satellite Paul’s Place at the N.C. 210 exit of I-40. D.G. Martin listed both places as must-stop locations in his book Interstate Eateries.

Shad roe is no longer on the menu, but you can still get barbecue sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, egg sandwiches for breakfast and the famous hot dogs.

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