Busboys and Poets opened its newest location in Edgewood/Brookland at the start of the year, but it will host its official kick-off tonight with a reading by D.C. crime writer George Pelecanos.
Expect the fifth Busboys and Poets location from restaurateur and political dabbler Andy Shallal to be extra literary. The new spot is the first to partner with Politics & Prose. "I do restaurants. I've had bookstores in the past, and I know how difficult they are to maintain and manage and update," Shallal says. He met the owners of the upper Connecticut Ave. NW bookstore at an event and made a passing joke about teaming up. That led to a phone call and eventually a collaboration, which will carry through to future locations. Another Busboys and Poets will open in Takoma on Valentine's Day, followed eventually by a location in Anacostia.
The Brookland Busboys will also host a lot writing workshops. "Memoir writing is big these days," Shallal says. (But no, he's not working on one of his own anytime soon.)
In terms of food, Shallal says the new location is amping up its vegan offerings. "I love a tempeh sandwich," he says. "And that's something I think years ago you wouldn't see." Among the meatless dishes: a vegan cobb salad, a pizza with vegan pepperoni and sausage, and a vegan egg wrap with tofu colored yellow with tumeric.
Busboys and Poets has partnered with La Colombe for its coffee in Brookland, and it will work with Compass Coffee for the forthcoming Takoma location.
As for future expansion, Shallal was in negotiations to open a restaurant in the forthcoming Hecht Company warehouse development in Ivy City. But he says that's no longer happening. Shallal says it's ultimately not neighborhood-y enough for Busboys and Poets. "It feels a little bit forced," he says. "It's going to be a select type of person who's going to move there. It's going to become, I think, very homogeneous."
He's also been approached by a seemingly serious suitor about opening a Busboys and Poets in Johannesburg, South Africa. But it's not a done deal yet. "I don't know if I want to do that, but it's something I think about," he says. "If anything gets in the way of that, it's going to be finances. If there's deep pockets there of people who are willing to do this, I'll go along with it."
Photo courtesy Busboys and Poets