Posted by Katie @ Hungry Runner
What: Coffee Shop/ Restaurant/ Mini-bookstore
Where: Arlington, VA
Ring the bell, sound the alarm! We have a winner! OK, I guess this was never really meant to be a contest, but Busboys and Poets definitely wins the prize for being the best establishment I have found so far that meets all of the things that I look for when I’m on the hunt for the perfect places conducive to reading and writing in public. Busboys and Poets is an independently owned restaurant and cafe that now has four different locations all around the DC Metro area. It was founded in 2005 by Anas “Andy” Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and restaurateur, with the intentions of creating a “community gathering place.” He named the establishment for Langston Hughes, who once worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel prior to gaining recognition as a poet.
Before entering Busboys and Poets, I was expecting it to be a little more bookstore and a little less cafe. However, it happens to be much more of a cafe and restaurant than it is a bookstore. This was not a disappointing turn of events, though. The atmosphere inside was busy and buzzing. If the tables full of people that I noticed in the outside dining area prior to entering weren’t enough of an indication that this was an Arlington hotspot, then the amount of people I found inside certainly was. Customers have the choice of either being seated to a booth, pulling a stool up to the bar, or plopping down at one of the communal tables where you’re welcome to dine, work, write, and read to your heart’s desire.
I set up camp at one of the large communal tables, which was empty when I arrived but eventually became home to other laptop toting, cafe-lovers who came to B&P to get some work done. I’m the kind of person who takes an agonizingly long amount of time to decide on what I’m going to order whenever I’m out to eat, but when a restaurant has a menu as diverse and appetizing as Busboys & Poets’, it will take me three times as long. When I finally decided on what to order, I chose the Harira, which is a flavorful Moroccan bean soup, and it did not disappoint. The cool thing about B&P’s menu is that it has a lot of options to offer and it also specifically points out which dishes are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. Their menu also boasts the following:
- 100% Fair Trade & organic coffees and teas.
- Organic wine and beer. And Biodynamic wine.
- Boycotting of Canada’s seal hunt by “no longer purchasing any seafood from Canada.”
- Primarily sustainable seafood.
- Grass-fed, free range beef from local Virginia farms.
- Local, organic field greens from the Engaged Community Offshoots Farm Network.
- Conservation of water by only serving it upon request.
Aside from providing good food and a great place to work, Busboys & Poets also supports local artists, musicians, and activists by hosting tons of different events like open mic poetry nights, independent film screenings, author readings and book signings, and talent showcases. You’ll also find several paintings by local artists available for purchase decorating many of the B&P walls.
The books section of B&P is not what a true bookstore lover would call a “bookstore.” It’s more of a gift-shop-like area where you’ll find some pretty cool gizmos and gadgets that are actually worth buying. Of course, for all intents and purposes you can rightfully call it a bookstore since there were four or five shelves filled with a good deal of really great reads.
Is this a good place for reading or writing? 100% yes. This place was made for people like me who tote their laptops and books around with them everywhere they go. This is the type of place that public Internet users live for. Good food, good service, and good books. There’s not much more you can ask for.
Bonus points: Busboys and Poets is a proud member of DC Local First and are a Certified B Corporation. Also, their Hyattsville, MD location will be holding a very special event on Wednesday, September 21 (which is International Peace Day) where they will be dedicating a room to Howard Zinn. Check it out if you’re in the area!