By Lani Gering
The Royal Restaurant….Since 1904
“For over one hundred years, the Royal Restaurant has been the most popular restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria. Originally located next to City Hall at 109 North Royal Street, the family-owned Royal Café became Alexandria’s premier lunch time eatery for the then bustling downtown shopping district during the 1940’s, ‘50’s, and ‘60’s. Everyone in Old Town ate at the Royal Café. Although a family restaurant, the Royal Café was regularly visited by police officers, secretaries and other downtown workers. It became the place where many of the city’s most important political decisions were made as local politicians, attorneys, businessmen and downtown citizens discussed the hot topics of the day over hearty southern-style dinners and rice pudding desserts. The building on North Royal was torn down in 1964 to make room for the city’s urban renewal projects on the block. Undaunted by the uncompensated taking of their prime location, the owners, Richard Kyriacos and his nephew, Charles Euripides, moved “The Royal” to its present location in 1965 and with very hard work and determination made the new Royal Restaurant a success. Now Euripides and family proudly continue the tradition of its fine home style cooking, authentic Greek and Italian fare, and friendly hospitable service. Welcome to the Royal Restaurant.”
The above statement – taken from the front of their carry out menu – pretty much sums up what the Royal is all about. It is an old town institution – one of the good kind!
We thought maybe it would be fitting to feature a place that goes easy on your wallet during the month of April – you know, tax season and all! The Royal is just that place. The most expensive item on the menu is the 14-ounce Delmonico steak at $21.00 and that includes house-made mashed potatoes and broccoli. You can easily have a good breakfast for $10, lunch for $15 and dinner for $20 – including tax and tip.
I must admit that the day we ate lunch here (the dinner menu is pretty much identical) was the first time in the 25 years that I have lived here that I have been to the Royal for a meal other than breakfast during the week or the fabulous breakfast buffet that they serve on Saturdays and Sundays. More on that later.
The menu is pretty extensive with a host of appetizers, soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, pastas, steaks and chops, chicken and seafood and choice of 6 desserts. There definitely is something for everyone. They also have daily lunch specials during the week. I was lucky enough to be there on a Wednesday when they had the open faced hot turkey sandwich for a mere $10.50. This includes cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and green beans and it was HUGE. I am pretty picky about turkey in restaurants – I hate the thin sliced pressed (or whatever it is) pieces that are cut off a deli hunk. I like REAL turkey sliced off of the roasted bird and that is what they have here! It really hit the spot. In fact, I had to bring half of it home. Bob decided to order a manly man entrée – two grilled center cut pork chops seasoned with herbs, garlic and onion served with the Royal’s signature mashed potatoes and green beans. This is another large plate but he managed to eat both chops. While they were a little on the tough side, he said that the combination of the herbs, garlic and onion compote that topped them more than made up for it. At $15.00 it was worth it. One of the guys sitting at the counter ordered one of their burgers and it looked great – definitely a good sized sandwich for $9 including the fries.
I can’t forget to mention the adult beverages. They do have full bar service and a decent bottled beer selection, however, if you are looking for a fine wine list, this isn’t the place. They offer a choice of Sean Minor Chardonnay, Tavo Pinot Grigio, Raywood Cabernet Sauvignon and Michael Sullberg Merlot all at the price of $8.50 per glass. I have to give them credit with their wine pour – it is pretty substantial.
Let’s talk about breakfast and the breakfast buffet. I love breakfast as long as I don’t have to make it for myself. I realize that it’s the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah, but I have never been one who wakes up wanting to eat right away. This is where the Royal shines. The many times I have been there for this meal over the years it doesn’t change. Eggs are cooked to order, the omelets (especially the omelet station on Saturdays and Sundays) are fantastic and the pancakes, Belgian waffles and French toast are spot on. The coffee is always really good here – maybe it’s the old fashioned diner feel that makes it taste better than usual. The vibe that you get from the clientele here adds to the experience. I get the impression that there are still a lot of important “political decisions” being made here by the local politicians and business people! I see a lot of faces that I recognize. Lots of breakfast meetings going down at this place.
Breakfast is served Monday through Saturday from 6 am to 11 am and the buffet is served Saturdays and Sundays from 7 am to 2 pm. Get there early for the buffet – it is a mad house on Saturdays after Farmers Market! Lunch is served Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm and dinner from 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
If you have never been to the Royal, put it on your bucket list. It is truly a slice of Americana that takes you back a few years. The music playing in the background when we were there was reminiscent of the ‘60’s!
730 North St. Asaph St.
Old Town Alexandria