Much like the name already suggests, Busboys & Poets is quite the jack of all trades. The giant restaurant also doubles (quintiples? sextoubles?) as a bookstore, coffeehouse, theatre, performance center, speakeasy and community center, among other things. For us, the 14th and V location (BusBoys & Poets has three locations in the area) has become the perfect Saturday morning hang. The casual environment lets us relax, read and write as we sip on coffee and work up an appetite for lunch.
The large, brightly painted interior is formed into several sections: a bookstore, a lounge/coffee shop, a bar, and then a more traditional dining area. Much of the restaurant, as a splattering of quotes through the menu will tell you, is inspired by the life and poetry of Langston Hughes. With a reference to the poet's early life as a busboy in the 1930's, Busboys & Poets meets us at the intersection of the food, politics, literature and the arts.
Started in 2005, by Anas Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, Busboys immediately became a common meeting place for progressive activists, artists and particularly those opposed to the Iraqi war. If you look hard enough, you'll also find a few Iraqi touches on the diverse menu.
Speaking of the menu, Busboys and Poets still lists 'food' before any of its other trades and the food-first mentality shows with approachable menu options that defy expectations of coffee shop grub. I got the chicken salad sandwich (below), which to my delight was filled with apples, golden raisins, and walnuts, and served with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion on multigrain bread. Not only was the presentation artistic and colorful, but it's also served with some delicious sweet potato fries.
Angela got the yellow tomato gazpacho (below), served with guacamole and basil oil. When another colorful dish arrived at our table, I almost started wondering if all the food had been designed to match the brightly colored walls. As for the taste, the yellow tomato gazpacho was really good, tart, and creamy.
Angela also got the Cobb salad, with mixed field greens, grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and caramelized onion tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette with blue cheese. While pretty straight-forward, the salad didn't disappoint in the least. Using freshy, hearty ingredients, the salad was more than worthy of being its own meal.
While I still may prefer the layout and server-less scheme over at Clarendon's Northside Social, I can't help but love what Busboys has going for it. Not only has the venue helped bring the respective communities together and helped educate and inform its patrons, it also has very solid food for very solid prices.