Skip to content

At the Monastery Restaurant on Granby Street, doors and hearts are still open after 39 years – The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK — Granby Street bustles with sports cars and party revelers hurrying to bars this Sunday evening. Near the corner with Charlotte Street stands a dark red brick building with medieval doors and a wine-colored awning.

It is business as usual inside the Monastery Restaurant, one of the oldest businesses in downtown Norfolk. The waitstaff hustles to serve a family of four sitting in the middle of the dining room and a couple from New York in the rear. The soft lighting makes the space feel warm and inviting; mirrored arches, wood trim and oil paintings of bearded men create an Old World ambiance.

The owners, Anna and Adolf Jerabek, are busy in the kitchen cooking meals from recipes passed down from their mothers and grandmothers. In 1967 the couple emigrated from what was then Czechoslovakia to the United States in hopes of finding a better life. They started in New York City, where they worked and saved to open an eatery that he had dreamed of, Monastery Restaurant. It was near Central Park and attracted customers from the American Ballet Theater and Broadway shows.

The restaurant consumed most of their time but Adolf was growing tired of living in New York. He was always sick. He wanted to raise the two sons they’d had in a safer community with less expensive schools. Even though Anna Jerabek cared for New York, she agreed to move. A friend suggested Virginia. The couple sold the business and relocated.

In 1983, they moved to a Granby Street that was closed to traffic and known as Granby Mall. The neighborhood was rundown, only a few businesses still existing.

“People said I wouldn’t make it here,” Anna said. “I told them, ‘I’m tough. I’ll make it.’ And here I am.”

customers stopped by for veal cordon bleu and Slavic sauerkraut and the fellowship that occurred when the Jerabeks put down their spoons and knives in the kitchen and chatted with guests in the dining room.

Anna Jerabek watched customers get married, have children and then bring their kids to the restaurant.

Some folks visited regularly from other parts of the world. Jerabek remembered a man who had ordered the bratislava goulash, a classic beef dish with a rich paprika sauce and dumplings. It reminded him of home but with more meat — a testament to how cuisine connects people.

Anna Jerabek served me the creamy sweet and sour Slavic sauerkraut, a favorite dish of our mutual friend. It tasted amazing with its sautéed onions and sugar. I felt like a queen dining with goblets while enjoying a basket of homemade fresh bread and a whole Gala apple. They paired well with the blue cheese and slices of Havarti. Anna Jerabek encouraged me to try her de ella escargots, snails, roasted in homemade garlic, chives and onion butter. I hesitated and then went for it. I could not believe that I had been missing out on this deliciousness all my life.

The jovial Anna Jerabek returned later with a pep in her step, carrying the la raclette valaisienne — a creamy cheese from Switzerland served on a sizzling plate with Lyonnaise fried potatoes, capers and thinly sliced ​​pickles. It became my favorite appetizer because of its richness and textures. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too salty. For dinner, I had the veal cordon bleu, a tender patty filled with Swiss cheese and ham and served with Lyonnaise potatoes, steamed broccoli and a lemon — another pleasant dish. Adolf Jerabek took a break from cooking and brought out the desserts: hot apple strudel with vanilla sauce, Black Forest cake and fruit dumplings. Each dessert was prepared with finesse and packed with flavor. I knew I wanted to return after indulging in the last bite.

During the height of the pandemic, the owners sat patrons at every other table. Anna Jerabek saw another change: First-time visitors and young professionals coming in, excited to try something new. It was a welcome change during a time when most of her older customers were staying home.

Like many restaurants, the Monastery struggles with staffing shortages. Her most recent employees have been working there for about six months; she used to have staff who had worked there for decades and have now moved on to professional careers. She has had to fill in the gaps.

“People never know I’ve worked 16 hour a day and still to this day,” said the 80-year-old.

This helps explain how the family has been in business for more than 50 years. They do not allow trends to influence their decisions. Their menu and décor have remained largely the same. What differs: the memories they create for people.

I arrived at the Monastery as a stranger and left feeling like family. I got the same feeling from reading the restaurant reviews. People constantly talked about how friendly everyone was.

Jerabek’s eyes lit up when asked about Ukrainian refugees coming to the area. She’d love to help them find work. She held back tears as she said she’s proud to be in the United States and an American.

let's eat

let’s eat


We’re serving up restaurant reviews and news about the local food scene every week.

“Send them my way.”

Rekaya Gibson,, 757-295-8809; on Twitter, @gibsonrekaya


Where: 443 Granby St., Norfolk. On-street parking.

Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 5 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays. Hours may differ because of staffing. Reservations accepted on website.

Enter: $17 to $36.

Details:, 757-625-8193


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.