Backyard History

Memorable Matchbooks: Alexandria’s Majestic Cafe Then and Now

ALEXANDRIA VA – Established in 1932, The Majestic has been an important landmark of Old Town dining for over 80 years. Though the restaurant has changed hands over a few generations, this historic spot and the iconic neon sign and storefront have beckoned diners to enjoy a great meal, and our new destination offers nothing less.

In 1932, John Gadonas opened the original Majestic Café at 622 King Street. In 1949 he moved a few blocks to the current location at 911 King Street in 1949. Known as ‘Mr. John,’ Gadonas altered the building to enlarge the interiors, added an Art Deco façade, and outfitted the diner with the latest restaurant equipment and furnishings.

The Majestic Cafe in Alexandria, Va opened in 1932. This matchbook is from the 1932-1948 period before the Majestic moved up the street three blocks to its current spot. (Photo: Mary Wadland)

The Gadonas family eventually closed the restaurant in 1978, but kept the building, hoping to reopen someday. That hope became a reality when a group of local investors refurbished and reopened it as The Majestic Café in 2001. At that time, two 25’ tall exterior neon signs were rebuilt, and third neon sign from the original 1932 Majestic storefront was also refurbished, and remains in perfect working order, hanging in our front window.

Beyond the iconic neon signs, other original elements from the earliest restaurant on the site remain in the dining room, including most of the terrazzo floor, and parts of the tin ceiling.

Executive Chef Graham Duncan. (Courtesy image)

Today Chef Graham Duncan can be seen most nights in the display kitchen, located at the back of the restaurant. The Majestic is part of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, which own and operate numerous eateries in Alexandria, Arlington and Florida.

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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