The history of Virginia Cafe can be traced back as far as 1906, the year that Theodore, William and Christopher Dussin emigrated from Argos, Greece to Portland, Oregon. In 1914, after heavy mountain snows caused them to be laid off their jobs laying railroad ties, the brothers entered the restaurant business and opened the first Virginia Cafe at the corner of S.W. 10th and stark. In the heart of the city’s notorious “tenderloin,” the brothers offered “Quick Service and Best Coffee” to a clientele heavily studded with characters that frequented the area. Many of the hotels in that area were sporting houses, and on an average day 50 trays were carried by two “runners” from the “Virginia to the girls’ rooms- Gals who ate well and tipped lavishly.”
In 1922, the brothers expanded and opened the New Virginia Cafe at its Park Avenue location. There they established a thriving business, serving many of Portland’s leading business, professional, political and theatrical personalities. In 1926, Billie Boyer broker the “Lib Barrier” and became the cafe’s first waitress – a lone little brunette in the midst of waiters. During the ’20s and ’30s she developed a following of regular customers, a handful of who were present to the witness her 50th anniversary on the job in 1976.
While “Black Friday,” 1929 signaled the start of desperate times for most businesses, the Virginia continued to prosper. Four years later, when many thought the Virginia had escaped the ravages of the Great Depression, business suddenly dropped 75% and remained at a very low level for an extended period of time.
Restored in 1979 by the current owners, Peter Goforth and Bob Rice, the Virginia cafe sat on Park Avenue pretty much with the same style and spirit it had back in 1922. In January of 2007, news broke that the entire block had been sold, displacing all the tenants and in its place would rise a 36 story tower. It appeared to be the end of the story for the Virginia Cafe, Which had run continuously in downtown Portland since 1914. Low and behold, a new site was found and construction began in the former home of the Willamette Week offices on September 17th, 2007. Many of the old fixtures and booths made the journey to the new location, with one booth finding a home at the Oregon Historical Society.
February 25th, 2008 started like every other day had on Park Avenue, with one exception, it was moving day for the Virginia Cafe. With out home on Park Avenue still open for business for one last day, work was escalating to a fever pitch to get the new place open on 10th Avenue. The anticipation for the move was mounting. At 4:33PM family, friends and long time patrons of the Virginia Cafe picked up their bar stills and began the bar stool crawl to 10th avenue led by the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers to our new home at 820 SW 10th Avenue. That was indeed a sight to see.
We are now going into our 103rd year serving Portland and all of us at the Virginia Cafe want to thank your for your continues patronage after all these years. Cheers!