Since we moved to DC, people have been telling us that we need to check out Busboys and Poets. I don't know why it took us over three years, but I'm glad we listened. Busboys and Poets was opened off U Street in 2005 by an Iraqi-American who sought to create a community gathering place to generate discussion about political and community issues. The venture has since grown into a group of three locations billed as restaurants/fair trade markets/bookstores/gathering places. Curious about the name? Apparently poet Langston Hughes was a busboy at DC's Wardman Park Hotel in the 1930s.
At the suggestion of friend and loyal reader Victoria, we ventured across the river to Shirlington to meet her and visiting buddy Clare at Busboys and Poets - the Virginia edition.
At first glance, the Shirlington location looked much more like a restaurant than a performance space or community gathering place. However, upon closer inspection I could see how the variety of seating options (couches, comfy chairs, tables) and wireless internet invites lingering and discussion. There is also a performance stage in a back room. After wandering through the fair trade market, we were seated at a cozy table and perused the menu.
Do you ever find yourself staring at a menu unable to choose because everything sounds good? That's how I felt at Busboys and Poets. I eventually just put the menu away because I kept changing my mind. I settled on the coconut tofu bites with plum sauce as an appetizer. Our group enjoyed the contrast of the coconut crunch and silky tofu. The plum sauce added a nice zing. The dish is also vegan, if that's your thing.
To drink, I ordered the DC Tap Water cocktail partly because I liked the name. The greenish/blue concoction was a fruity mix of too many ingredients that somehow worked themselves into a nice beverage. The chicken salad sandwich was made up of free range chicken, apples, raisins, walnuts, and avocado on two pillowy pieces of multigrain bread. Not a groundbreaking sandwich, but a very solid execution of a classic. I was bummed that they were out of sweet potato fries, but the regular fries did the trick.
B fell in love with his vegetarian spinach and pesto lasagna with garlic toast. A perfect dish for this blustery weather.
We couldn't decide what to order for dessert. When this happens, B and I play a game where we take turns eliminating one item from the menu until one remains. Thankfully our friends put up with our weirdness and participated in the game, leading to the selection of the delicious chocolate mousse pie. Nice work team.
Second Thoughts from B
As I write this, I feel somewhat sheepish. First, I've lived in DC for 4.5 years and this was my first visit to Busboys and Poets. What's worse, we went and didn't get to sample the "poets" scene for which they are famous.
But I can comment on the "busboys" part of Busboys and Poets, and if the bites I sampled are any indication, the food alone would make it a success. From the vegan tofu to the vegetarian lasagna to the cool hippie coffee shop vibe, it felt like Berkeley fine dining. (To be clear to those who haven't spent much time in Berkeley recently, the current selection of eateries is quite good)
Busboys and Poets fit us perfectly. It was the perfect middle ground between fast food and fine dining, and felt comfortable and familiar. For the two of you out there who have not been to Busboys and Poets, think of the Central Perk from "Friends" with a bigger menu (and hopefully better talent). While you might not find Jennifer Aniston there, don't be surprised if we become regulars.