Louis Lambert and Chris Reale were busy this week putting the finishing touches on a Fort Worth icon, Paris Coffee Shop.
Lambert was straightening old photos of Fort Worth, one of the characteristic interior details that has long been part of the atmosphere at the diner that has been on Magnolia Avenue since 1926.
“Are these level?” Lambert, hammer in hand, asked Reale, one of his partners in the revitalization.
“Those are far more level than they were,” Reale answered, stepping back to gauge the line of photos.
“I’ll get something to stick them in place,” Lambert said.
The photos, which were once all different sizes, are now a uniform 8 ½ x 11 inches.
“We took them down, took them to a professional photo spot to blow them up so you can really see them,” Reale said.
Paris Coffee Shop has been a Fort Worth favorite for eggs, waffles, coffee, meat-and-two lunches, pies and sides of all kinds for years, a meeting place for the working class as well as city movers and shakers since opening in 1926.
Lambert was well aware of that when, in spring 2020, the chef-restaurateur teamed up with Fort Worth developer Mark Harris and longtime colleague Reale to purchase the coffee shop from owner Mike Smith.
Paris Coffee Shop Timeline
1926 Paris Coffee Shop opens
1928 Smith family purchases Paris Coffee Shop
1965 Mike Smith assumes operations from his father.
1975 Paris Coffee Shop moves to current location
2020 Lou Lambert, Mark Harris and Chris Reale purchase cafe
2022 Refurbished Paris Coffee Shop opens
If you go
WHAT: Paris Coffee Shop reopening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, with brunch on weekends.
WHEN: week of May 22
WHERE: 704 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth 76104
Lambert, Harris and Reale had partnered on the 2021 refurbishment of the Roy Pope Grocery on the city’s west side. Lambert is known for many restaurants, including Dutch’s Burgers, across from TCU.
Smith’s father bought the restaurant from founder Vic Paris in 1929, and Mike Smith assumed operations in 1965. That’s a lot of coffee poured and a lot of history over the years, and the new owners know plenty of people will be watching closely to make sure the place doesn’t lose its old-school charm, said Lambert.
Renovation began in October 2020 with much of the same team that worked on the Roy Pope Grocery.
“We studied early photographs and plans in order to reproduce the original look and feel of the place,” Lambert said.
“It will be the same Paris, but it’s been spruced up,” said Reale.
Improvements include rehabbing the kitchen and updating the dining room, restrooms and storage areas. Space in the rear of the building adds a private dining room that can accommodate at least 30.
Design Build Adventure, an Austin firm owned by Fort Worth native Jack Sanders, has overseen the renovation, much as it did for the Roy Pope Grocery update.
The building’s exterior offers some new wood details, where the original photos of the café were used. Signage and logo design by Fort Worth artist Sarah Ayala evokes a 1930s-era style that was used in Paris’ early years.
In the back of the restaurant, the kitchen is going to be used as never before, Reale said.
“One thing that people didn’t know is Paris has a massive kitchen, so we’re going to do a big bakery program,” Reale said. Expect to see Paris Coffee Shop pies at the Roy Pope Grocery as well as other baked goods, he said.
The group had ordered new equipment for the kitchen, but canceled most of the orders and refurbished the equipment that was already there.
“All this stuff is from the ’70s, ’80s, ’60s, and you just can’t reproduce some of this,” he said. “We just had them gutted and had them redone.”
Not everything has been updated. Much of the staff — including servers who have been there for years — will be back.
Counter service will be found in a familiar place, along the east interior wall, with the refurbished pie case along the wall. Booth seating is in a familiar place as well, along the front windows, west wall, with the two-person booths separating the counter area from the table seating area.
The menu is new and brighter, but the offerings will look familiar with breakfast consisting of chicken-fried steak, sirloin steak, or pork chop with eggs, biscuits, hash browns or grits; corned beef hash, huevos rancheros, smoked brisket breakfast taco, or lox and bagel platter. Griddle specialties will include buttermilk or whole-grain pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup; Belgian waffles or brioche French toast with whipped cream and fresh berries; and old-fashioned Dutch baby with lemon butter or berries.
Paris Coffee Shop staples like Greek and Denver omelets remain part of the menu, but for diners craving something healthy, power grain bowls, fresh fruit plates with mint and honey, and fresh granola parfait will be on the menu.
At lunch and dinner, the familiar daily blue plate specials remain. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, and a handful of breakfast plates are served all day. On all the tables will be the familiar bottle of Paris chili sauce, now with a new logo. .
Unlike the previous Paris Coffee Shop, the new shop will be open at night and serve liquor.
Like many restaurants, the new owners are looking for employees for their new evening hours, Reale said.
“It’s a tough market out there, but we think this will be a fun place to work,” he said.
When the group purchased the Paris Coffee Shop, it also purchased the attached building, a 2,700-square- foot space. They plan to tackle that after Paris Coffee Shop opens.
“I don’t know exactly what we’ll do. I’ve always wanted to do a cool bar with some food, so maybe it’ll be something like that, but we’re still fleshing that out,” said Reale.
Meanwhile, the Paris Coffee Shop team is readying for the opening the week of May 22.
“There’s so many small, little details that we were trying to nail that some of the original folks may not know that we did, but we put every last-minute effort and detail into making this thing Paris to its core,” said Reale. “This is as original as we could make it.”
Bob Francis is business editor for fortworthreport.org. He has been covering business news locally and nationally for many years. He can be reached at email@example.com.