Paul’s Coffee Shop on Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives

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Phil Martinez has enjoyed more than 15 minutes of fame. He gets another 12 minutes every time the Paul’s Coffee Shop segment runs on the Food Network show, Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives. Paul’s Coffee Shop in Fountain Valley is owned and operated by Martinez, a former marine, and decorated with US Marine Corp insignia, his uniform and boots. Not surprisingly, a number of retired service people are regular guests.

When the phone call from the show came, Martinez thought it was a prank. “They asked if I was interested and said they would call me back for a phone interview,” he says. “They quizzed me about recipes and other details.”

Producing the show took three days. The first two days the crew came to set up lights and power and private area for Fieri was cordoned off. When the Diner’s host first arrives he prefers not to be approached, the crew warned. “He seems a little stuck-up at first,” Martinez says.

Filming lasted several hours the kitchen shots alone took two hours. Fieri was at Paul’s Coffee Shop for 12 hours. “I was nervous,” Martinez says. Fieri noticed and stopped the cameras to pull Martinez aside to chat. “He told me just to have fun.” It helped and filming continued. “He tastes everything,” says Martinez of Fieri. A faux pas was narrowly avoided when the star was almost served their signature dish, SOS. The acronym is military lingo for “Stuff on a Shingle” among other more colorful expressions. The recipe for Martinez’s much tastier version riffs on a dish of creamed ground beef or chipped beef on toast and includes scrambled eggs, which Fieri dislikes.

“They are perfectionists. We had to redo the cooking several times. Everything shows. They let me see with the camera and it’s different from looking with your eyes,” Martinez says.

The Food Network star spent some quality time with Martinez. “He told me how to make the restaurant more successful.” Following Fieri’s advice, Paul’s now has a website and is soon to undergo a name change. Fieri also strongly recommended that Martinez plan carefully for the day after the show aired. Martinez reports, “It was incredible. He said, I want to tell you what to expect and to be prepared for hell.” Martinez credits the show for the 20% boost in income he’s experienced since the first 2010 broadcast. “We get new customers each time our show is repeated,” says Martinez.

Paul’s Coffee Shop is open for breakfast and lunch. Besides the comfort favorite SOS, Hawaiian Loco Moco with Spam or meatloaf, chicken fried steak and chicken, burgers, sandwiches and salads are on the menu. Waffles, French toast, eggs and omelet variations are served for breakfast. An unusual side for a coffee shop is the flavorful cucumber kimchi.

Martinez hopes to open another restaurant in the future. He’s planning something a little more upscale. Fans will just have to wait and see.