By Olivia Anderson | [email protected]
Charlie Euripides, an Alexandria Living Legend and owner of the Royal Restaurant, passed away on April 14 after an extended illness. He was 89.
Throughout his more than 70 years in the city, Euripides was president of the Cyprus Society of Washington D.C., a U.S. Navy veteran and, for a time, route manager at the Alexandria Gazette. Known mostly for his extensive work at the Royal, located at 730 N. Asaph St., Euripides earned a name for himself as someone who loved serving food, people and the community of Alexandria.
Barbara Beach, an attorney and longtime family friend of the Euripides, said that almost every lawyer in town knew Euripides, who regularly catered bar association meals. When Beach stepped down as chair, Euripides treated the whole bar to champagne to celebrate.
“You couldn’t go into the Royal Restaurant without Charlie coming over to your table, sitting down and chatting for a few minutes, which was amazing because the man not only ran the restaurant, he ran the catering and there wasn’t a charity that Charlie wasn’t there for,” Beach said.
Before becoming a community fixture, Euripides was born in Karavas, a small village in Cyprus, during the Great Depression. He graduated from the Neoclassical Pancyprian Gymnasium Prestigous High School, and while he was still a teenager, immigrated with his family to the United States in 1951. Immediately upon arriving in New York, Euripides’ uncle drove him to Alexandria and shortly after, he began work as a dishwasher at the family’s Royal Restaurant, then located at 109 N. Royal St.
A few years later, in 1956, Euripides was drafted into the U.S. Navy. For three years he served as a gunner’s mate aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey and as an on-guard aboard the U.S.S. Salem. During the Lebanon political crisis, his ship was trailed by Russian submarines throughout the Mediterranean, forcing it to go to general quarters, which is a battle-ready position. According to Euripides’ son, Gus, he “really thought WWIII was about to start. He was that serious about what he was doing.”
His commitment to the military went beyond the three years he spent abroad, with Euripides working closely with American Legion Post 24 and other veteran-related initiatives as a civilian. As president of the Cyprus society of Washington D.C., he directly interacted with the Embassy of Cyprus and met then Cyprus president, Archbishop Makarios III, in 1970.
After returning to Alexandria in 1959, Euripides eventually took over ownership of the Royal Restaurant, working 80 to 90 hours per week and juggling several jobs to keep the business afloat. This included starting the day at 5 a.m. and working the breakfast shift until 1 p.m. before going to his second job as a route manager for the Alexandria Gazette. He then would return to the restaurant and work until 8 p.m., seven days a week.
“It’s amazing that he was able to sustain this. He really wanted a better life for the children, wanted to be able to send us to college, wanted us to have the luxury of access to swimming pools and recreation, sports, things that he really didn’t have. He was very generous,” Gus said.
According to Gus, Euripides’ work ethic came naturally to him. While still in Cyprus in 1941, Euripides’ father suddenly left one morning to fight in the British army during World War II. Just 9 years old at the time, Euripides had to take over the family farm, instilling in him a hard work ethic that never left.
This sense of diligence seeped into Euripides’ work at the Royal, which employed thousands of people over the years. Euripides and his wife Barbara, whom he married in 1960 and loved until her death in 2001, expanded the restaurant in the 70s to create a catering company called Royal Catering. Still operating today, the company handles functions at Gadsby’s Tavern, Lee-Fendall House and the Carlyle House.
Royal Catering also focused on weddings, serving the Washington area with Euripides at the helm for about 60 years. During that time Euripides served weddings of all sizes, from small weddings with less than 10 people to large ones with more than 800.
Gus joked that his father’s expertise gradually spanned beyond just catering to also doling out wedding advice.
“So many, many brides and grooms came to him and said, ‘How do we do this?’ And he would really counsel the brides and say, ‘Here’s what you really should aim for in terms of your agenda and events that go on within the wedding.’ He was more of a wedding counselor than anything else,” Gus laughed.
Euripides’ catering events included a roster of notable guests, such as actress Elizabeth Taylor, who allegedly told Euripides that he mixes the best drinks.
A steady rotation of politicians and dignitaries regularly stopped by the Royal, from John Warner to Jeb Bush to Melvin Laird. Gov. Glenn Youngkin dined at the restaurant just a week before he was elected in 2021.
But patrons also ranged from retirees who felt lonely and dropped in for social interaction to “high-chair customers,” or customers who had been coming to the restaurant since they were children sitting in high-chairs.
According to Beach, Euripides treated his patrons like family. For example, Euripides, who was Greek Orthodox, would make special dishes around Easter and pass them out generously.
“He would pull you aside and he would say, ‘Let me send you home with this special dish, some of it.’ Not to sell you a meal or anything like that, but he was so generous, he would offer whatever it was that he had special in the back going, just to honor people, to please people,” Beach said.
Euripides’ long list of accomplishments and contributions to the city were honored in 2018, when he was named an Alexandria Living Legend.
Former Mayor Allison Silberberg expressed sorrow at Euripides’ passing and gratitude for his impact on the city.
“I recently visited with him at his home, and he shared many stories about his youth in Cyprus, his family, and how he met the love of his life, Barbara,” Silberberg said in a Facebook post. “He was so grateful. But it is our community that can be grateful for his love. I am deeply saddened.”
When Euripides moved to Alexandria, the city was a sleepy, southern town with little commerce. As Old Town evolved, so did the Royal, but Gus emphasized that some things stayed the same: Euripides’ dedication to the community and the food.
“He became somewhat of a local celebrity. He was at every function, every party, every bar association meeting, and his food was just legendary. It was just the tastiest roast beef, very beautifully spiced chicken … and he always did it with a smile on his face,” Gus said.
“The thing I’ll remember the most was that he loved people. It was his honor to serve Alexandria, and he took it as his duty and his pleasure and his responsibility to serve excellent food,” he added. “In doing so he developed friendships that have gone on for generations.”
A viewing was held on Monday at Jefferson Funeral Chapel, followed by a funeral service on Tuesday at Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Euripides’ name to Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 3149 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, Virginia, 22041.
[Read more: City names Zeina Azzam new poet laureate]