By Lexie Jordan
After nearly 120 years of being one of Old Town’s great family owned businesses, The Royal Restaurant has been sold to Alexandria Restaurant Partners and Sloan Hospitality.
“It was a very difficult decision to make,” Demetry Pikrallidas, a trustee and family member of the late owner, said. “There was no need to sell, but I didn’t think we’d find another group like Alexandria Restaurant Partners.”
Alexandria Restaurant Partners has made a name for themselves locally with their ownership and management of a handful of Old Town favorites: Ada’s on the River, Mia’s Kitchen, Barca Pier and Wine Bar, Theismann’s and The Majestic.
In 1904, Gus Pikrallidas opened the Royal Cafe on Royal Street next to the Alexandria City Hall. It was a breakfast and lunch spot that featured a versatile selection of American, Italian and Greek food. After successfully running the restaurant for nearly 50 years, Pikrallidas was joined by his nephew, Charlie Euripides.
Eurpides immigrated from Cyprus to the United States in 1951 and immediately joined his uncle in the family business. Euripides studied at George Washington University while helping his uncle at The Royal. In 1954, Euripides went to serve in the United States Navy during the Korean War where he was a translator. Upon Euripides’ arrival back in the U.S., he decided he would take over for his uncle full time at The Royal instead of going back to school.
In 1964, the city urbanized the area around city hall; therefore, forcing The Royal Cafe to relocate so the new city square and fountain could be built.
The Royal relocated to N. St. Asaph Street, where it later became known as The Royal Restaurant. Euripides ran the family business for the next 57 years and became a beloved member of the Alexandria community. Per The Royal website, in 2018, “Euripides was named a Living Legend in Alexandria for his contributions to the Alexandria community.”
During his time as owner of The Royal, Euripides made it a priority to give back. He would sponsor T.C. Williams High School – now known as Alexandria City High School – students in their mission to gain U.S. citizenship. He would also donate meals to veterans via his service with the American Legion Post 24 in Old Town.
Euripides’ charm and hospitality was not only seen through his service, but also in his daily interactions with his customers and friends.
“Uncle Charlie would see someone in the parking lot and he knew what that person wanted,” Pikrallidas said, recalling the fond memories. Because of this charm, Pikrallidas noted how “at least 75%, maybe more” of the customers that visit The Royal are returning customers, some of which even have items on the menu named after them.
On April 14, 2022, Charlie Euripides passed away.
“I knew Uncle Charlie was popular but I didn’t realize how deep the love for him was,” Pikrallidas said. “[On his last day in the restaurant], customers came up to him, men and women hugging him, kissing his forehead, telling him they love him.”
The Royal community was devastated at the loss, and questions were raised as to what would happen to the “best breakfast spot in Old Town.”
Upon his passing, family members took over, continuing Euripides’ legacy; however, the next generation had their own careers to attend to, which made it difficult for them to shoulder the responsibilities of an owner. Pikrallidas noted how the beneficiaries were able to keep the restaurant profitable, and because of that, they were in no rush to sell.
“In my 58 years, this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Pikrallidas said, recalling the battle he went through when deciding if they should sell and to whom.
But, upon meeting with owners of Alexandria Restaurant Partners and Matt Sloan from Sloan Hospitality – the group that partnered with Alexandria Restaurant Partners in the purchase – Pikrallidas knew his uncle’s legacy was in good hands.
“[ARP and Sloan Hospitality] spent hours talking about the history of The Royal with family members and myself. I’ve never seen anything like it, they really dove deep,” Pikrallidas said.
The deal took roughly four to six months to complete, and on Oct. 17, 2023, Alexandria Restaurant Partners and Sloan Hospitality took ownership of The Royal.
Sloan said that the selling of the Royal has been well received by the community.
“What the family has built is really important to us,” Sloan said. “With a loyal community there’s bound to be a lot of love.”
Both Sloan and Pikrallidas made it clear that maintaining the image, name and reputation of The Royal is a priority in the change of ownership.
“We didn’t remove a single thing from the walls – that includes the office. There’s still a picture of me there from when I was 21 years old,” Pikrallidas laughed.
Sloan said there will be a few changes in the ownership change, including a new dinner menu. The new ownership will also be adding a new patio to welcome outdoor seating. The business model will also change from a solely breakfast and lunch menu to all-day dining “in the near future.”
“We plan to make some improvements to the space while keeping the warm and welcoming feel of The Royal,” Sloan said.
Sloan also mentioned the key in this change will be engagement with longtime customers.
“[We will] listen to our regulars and listen to their feedback. What the family has built is really important to us,” Sloan said. “We’ll keep going with what’s been great.”