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Busboys & Poets, Numerous Area Locations - Andy Shallal's Great Experiment (Which is Working)


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I made my second visit to Busboys and Poets tonight. I foresee more visits for many reasons and for different occasions--just like what the owners must have thought of when he opened this place.

Conveniently located in my neighborhood (14th and V), this is a place for:

(1) food: i am so glad to see decently priced and well-prepared food in the neighborhood where all things on the new-and-hip U St. are expensive regardless of the quality (think of Alero). All under 10, the chicken pizza w/ mushrooms, spinach, and roasted red peppers would shoulder next to pies at Coppi's, and the spinach salad w/ grapes-covered-in-goat-cheese-and-rolled-in-crusted-candied-walnuts was definitley memorable. I saw juicy-looking burgers, golden catfish, and more pizzas passing by me, and all looked pretty delicious.

(2) drinks: The beer selection is pretty large - both tap and bottled: tap including magic hat #9, magic hat hocus pocus, delirium tremmens, amstel light, and two local microbrews. I can't remember too well, but it had a mixed bag of domestic and imported (one German and one French) bottles. There is also a full bar + wine. It's a nice to see this place continuing the trend in the neighborhood where bars offer a wide and interesting beer selection (e.g., the saloon, saint ex, and bohemian cavern).

and (3) couches + wireless: this place is huge, airy, and full of couches and a handful of work tables. When are they going to start brunch on weekends? I can't wait to swing by with a book and grab a cup of coffee and a croissant. I sense that Busboys and Poets will become the U Street's Tryst (there were definitely a bunch of people w/ books and lap tops among diners).

Anyone else who checked out this new spot?

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didn't have a chance to taste anything when octavia butler was there to talk about her vampire novel a couple of weeks ago, but the place was packed and appears to already be a regular haunting ground for more people than i would have imagined. blood would have been appropriate, and although i doubt anyone thought to add it to the daily specials, both the busboy and poet sides of the operation appeared to have their acts together.

i sat under the mothering gaze of bella abzug.

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wow - it was quite a scene at Busboy's and Poets on Friday night - first of all the place is HUGE, second, it was HOPPING - I finally found my friends nestled in the corner close to the stage

Given how busy it was I did not have high hopes on the food/service end of things but was pleasantly surprised - service wasn't lightning fast but just as you would start to think "I wonder when I'll get that Delerium Tremens...." it would appear....

Food wise we ordered two pizzas as apps - a chicken one that was not very memorable and a goat cheese and mushroom with a pesto sauce that was very good

I ordered a burger, medium and it arrived exactly as ordered - it was tasty as well

Visually, the space is a treat as well, especially the "Peace" wall and there was also a slide show on the screen for the duration of our stay there

Free wi-fi, comfy couches, good beers and good food - a welcome addition to the Washington scene

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I love this place! I was there (accidentally) on opening night - and despite being a first-night, the service and food was spot-on. Great antipasto platter, delicious hummus, outstanding portobello mushroom/goat cheese sandwich - and the wines weren't too bad either. I wish I were still in DC so I could catch some of the entertainment there! I did buy a few books though - I guess that means I got my entertainment "to-go" tee hee.....

This place should be well-supported, as it is a great new place for an up-and-coming neighborhood!

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Busboy and Poets: Where Babka Learned to Eat Mussels Without Silverware. And Found that they were Good and Cheap.

(though they might have been better had we not requested utensils three times.)

Edited by babka
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I'm a fan of Busboys and Poets and like how it has positioned itself in the dining, dessert, drinks, and books markets. I've been there four times and have enjoyed pretty good food that was extremely affordable.

On two of my four visits, I was provided service that would not have met my expectations at most other restaurants. At Busboys and Poets, however, I wasn't upset by it. I don't want to say that the quality of service was consistent with the vibe the place is trying to create (part restaurant, part lounge, part coffee shop, all of them very laid back), but I will concede that my expectations were lowered. I felt downright sorry for the server that was taking care of us: on two different occasions parties of 7 or 8 were seated in her section very near us. Each party sat down, looked at the menu, and ordered drinks and cocktails. After their drink orders were taken, each of the tables GOT UP and moved to a different table that they considered more desirable. Never mind that drinks had been taken in a particular order (and the parties re-seated in a different order) and that the two vacated tables had to be cleaned and set up again.

Although I don't know exactly how they were defined, the server sections didn't make sense to me. Our server was covering an awful lot of tables, had tables in different rooms, and had some people who were coming in for full meals and some who were coming in for dessert.

There's definitely a lot going on in a very large space. It's a loud, bustling place and I like the owner's politics. Throw in some decent food at super-reasonable prices and I'll go back again and again.

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I will post more later... but I am eating a great chicken sandwich in a wonderfully live space right now... :-)

Okay, I am home now and I did not get any mayo on my keyboard. :-)

The space is wonderful. I hope they can manage the size and guarantee table turnover. I was there for nearly 1 1/2 hours and if I didn't have somewhere to go I would have stayed!

My sandwich was really yummy. The chicken was good but the avocado made it even better. My friend had a hamburger he said was very good.

They don't have fries though... interesting.

Oh, the manager brought us our food. He visited for a few minutes. Apparently they are aware of the service issues.

I look forward to many return visits.

Edited by NCPinDC
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I made my first trip to Busboys and Poets for a long lunch with a friend on Friday. I am decidedly pleased. The place has a bookstore with a range of interesting titles not common in the burgeoning Acme chains around town. It also has a really intriguing schedule of events, from poetry open mikes to a night of performances dedicated to Ken Saro-Wiwa. (See schedule on their Web site.)

Both of us had the catfish, both of us were mightily satisfied. A huge sauteed filet lays atop a buttery corn cake and a pile of collards. The sauce (which must have had a couple of sticks of butter as its base) had a nice tart ring to cut through the richness of the elements. Very nice for $11. The whole menu, in fact, is nicely priced.

Great beer and wine selection, and though the wine is cheap, the beer is not (lots of $6 bottles there!). Service is out there. We must have had at least five different guys serving us, and not in a coordinated fashion. One server committed the cardinal sin of pouring my beer at the table and then trying to take! the! bottle! away! when! it! still! had! beer! in! it! The service issues, however, were mostly forgivable considering that they all seemed genuinely to want us to have a nice, tasty time.

All told, this is a promising place to have a meal, see a show, or just hang out. I'll definitely be back.

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I was there last night for the first time, and although I did not have any of the food, some of my friends did (and I would still like to comment on my experience).

We went because of they were showing some short films, one of which my friend had directed. We were suprised at how packed the place was when we walked in around 8:15 on a Wednesday night. The wait for a table in the main area was at least 15-20 minutes. We were waiting to be seating in the Langston Room (where they do discussions and viewings), so we didn't get to experience the main area.

They certainly have the back room booked solid though! As the manager told us before the films began, there was a packed event just before ours and on Saturday, they had 5 seperate events planned. He also explained to us the desire to keep food costs down by having no advertising (besides word of mouth) and cutting back on some other things. And as for the bookstore, it is a non-profit entity with profits going to Teaching for Change (http://busboysandpoets.com/books.htm).

The food my friends had looked good (pizzas and burgers, but quality ones) and they seemed to enjoy (http://www.busboysandpoets.com/menu_.html).

Busboys and Poets certainly seems to be on the right track so far.

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I went to Busboys and Poets yesterday for the first time. It's an attractive (if slightly cavernous) space, and at least when I was there full past capacity with customers young, old, straight, gay, black, white and every other shade.

I liked the vibe, I liked my lattes, I liked the friendly fellow customers I sat with at a communal table for six. I liked the price (less than $15 for two lattes, a large bruschetta, tax, tip and somewhere to dawdle and doodle on my laptop for two hours). I liked that parking is possible within a block or two.

I didn't love the service which, as other have mentioned, ranges from decent to "holy cow, this person is braindead." It was a little odd, having to talk to a hostess and wait for a table in a place that is at least part-coffeehouse. My first server flat out sucked, I have to say. She scowled, she forgot, she disappeared. About halfway through my approximately 2 hour visit, a more mature and seemingly experienced server took over and she was a vast improvement, friendlier and less prone to disappearing.

I was a little confused by the "bruschetta" I ordered. The issue wasn't the tomatoes (I told myself that I'd be to blame if they were mealy and gross, given that it's November) which were red and sweet, but the size and execution: they used a pizza crust as the vehicle for chopped tomatoes, a hint of a basil (really, I saw two small pieces) and olive oil. It was unusual, but tasted quite alright. I ate three quarters of that big ol' thing.

Would I like to return? Definitely, but I will probably steer clear of peak hours because the place really is a zoo right now. They have begun serving brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays. I don't know that I'd risk that given the service issues (I tend to be hungriest in the morning and less forgiving of slow-to-arrive food than at other times during the day :lol: ).

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Hello again from Busboys and Poets. This time, for brunch and it was pretty good. I can see improvements in the service. It's neither effortless or flawless, but it's getting better, I can tell. My french toast was both tasty and well-priced. The bacon was fine, but I've had better.

But here's the thing that gets me about this place: the menu pleads with customers to tell friends about the place, but what they really need to do is teach the staff how to sell just a little. I mean, I don't want to be upsold the whole time, but here I sit with my laptop and if my server would stop by every 30 minutes or so, I would definitely keep ordering coffee until it came out my ears. I might even order more food! Instead I only order another latte every hour or thereabouts. :lol:

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I love the atmosphere and food at B&P but the service left much to be desired, at least during my last visit. Our server took our drink orders, then disappeared; then came back with drinks and rushed off even though we were ready with food orders; then returned several minutes later to take our orders; then came back to "double-check"; then our food arrived 30 minutes later. Refills had to be chased down, as did the check.

But the food...was wonderful. I had the meatloaf and mashed potatoes...better than any I've ever had. The meatloaf was so tender and juicy, had some nice spinach on the side, and the mashed potatoes were creamy and fluffy and buttery and good. My friend had a very nice steak salad.

So, I will definitely be back, but I can't even say "I'll avoid peak hours," because we were there very early for dinner on a Sunday and...there just weren't enough people there to make that the issue.

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How hard is it to get a latte at a coffee shop? How difficult is it to bus a table? Is it that challenging to hear a customer say something ain't right with that latte and offer to get another started?

At Busboys and Poets, the answers to the above questions seem to be, in order, very hard, extremely difficult and practically impossible. Which sucks because other than, well, the iffy food and horrendous service, I really like the place (if you've been there, you follow what I'm saying and realize that I'm not being sarcastic).

I arrived mid-afternoon, prepared to do a little work and drink a lot of coffee. Having spent numerous afternoons at B&P, I braced myself for the slow process of getting seated at one of the communal tables. At each of the two shared tables, there appeared to be a few vacant seats, but there were used plates, silverware and glasses at each. The hostess sort of shrugged. I waited.

Time passed, no bussers appeared. I resorted to standing next to one of the unbussed spots and a member of the waitstaff very reluctantly began clearing that portion of the table, making it clear that bussing wasn't part of his job description. He took his time with it, picking up two items at a time rather than grabbing a basin or tray. Three trips later, a busser-for-real stopped by and wiped down the table.

I settled in with my laptop - or tried to anyway. No internet. The roving tech guy said we should be back online in "four minutes" after they rebooted the system. Fifteen minutes or so later, I started getting sporadic access, but by that point, I was more annoyed by the fact that no server had visited to take an order from me or my hungry/thirsty tablemates.

Tempted to pack it in and cut my losses, something (probably stupidity) made me stick around and get a latte. I ordered, and I waited. And waited. And waited. Then the server returned to say "you said non-fat chai right?" Wrong. Just non-fat latte. The waiting began anew.

I did a double-take when the latte finally arrived because the plastic stirrer in the mug was standing straight up. The foam looked...funny. Not thick, luscious foam that would make a stirrer stand at attention, but a tired looking layer of air bubbles. Hmm. Inauspicious start, middle and...

To wrap this up quickly, the gosh darn thing tasted like fishy dishwater. I took two or three slugs and called it a day. When the server finally returned many minutes later, I mentioned that the latte was off and I was ready to leave. He did not offer to try again with a replacement latte, he didn't offer to comp or discount the crappy coffee, he just brought me a check for $4 and change.

I debated whether or not to recount my experience to the manager or anyone else, but Busboys is known for a few things, good service not among them. But I stopped by the hostess's stand and let her know how bad my visit had gone. She actually took notes, which I appreciated, and whether or not they get to anyone in management's ears, I felt better having put my comments on the record. Damn it, I want this place to be better!

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So has anyone been to the Shirlington outpost? I passed by during the lunch hour yesterday and it looked pretty busy.

I've been to the Shirlington outpost twice for dinner. I've never been to the DC outpost so can't compare the two. Looking at the old posts on the service at the DC location, though, I'll comment that the service at Shirlington was good both times we were there. The food I had was fine, not great, but it's inexpensive, and my husband really likes that they have a large number of vegetarian choices. Most recently, I had veggie pesto lasagna which was fine (though I thought the menu said it came with garlic toast and it came with plain wheat toast), and nachos which were good except they came with that orange cheese sauce rather than melted, shredded cheese.

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I had a pretty good burger at Busboys the other night with some really delicious skin-on potato wedges. The food has never been my favorite aspect of this place, but I had to take my opion of Busboys up a few notches toward positive after that meal.

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I've been to the DC and Shirlington branches of B&P several times over the course of the last 9 months or go.

The places are always crowded. Always.

I ask myself why.

Food Component: Mediocre which would tend to result in low customer loyalty.

Service: The service is extremely slow. This has two potential effects. By being so glacially slow, the turnover is low and a relatively small number of patrons swells. On the other hand, people get pissed off at the slow service and don't return.

Atmosphere: The place has that whole peacenik/hippy/counterculture vibe that many people like.

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I've been to the DC and Shirlington branches of B&P several times over the course of the last 9 months or go.

The places are always crowded. Always.

I ask myself why.

Food Component: Mediocre which would tend to result in low customer loyalty.

Service: The service is extremely slow. This has two potential effects. By being so glacially slow, the turnover is low and a relatively small number of patrons swells. On the other hand, people get pissed off at the slow service and don't return.

Atmosphere: The place has that whole peacenik/hippy/counterculture vibe that many people like.

Agreed about the food . B&P's food is slightly above average/mediocre. For us - it's appeal is the wide menu and welcoming atmosphere. At B&P a group of us can get snacks/ light meals/ pizza/ sandwiches/ full entrees or just deserts and each category has veggie options . I disagree about the service, atleast in Shirlington, where our group of 6 goes for dinner before shows at Signature Theatre. As long as we tell our waiter we have a showtime they get us out in plenty of timetime. B&P's is one of the few place that doesn't rush you out and encourages people to linger with the books and free Wi Fi.

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I've never been to B&P. But I'm sitting here in an advanced Excel class taught by a chick who bartends there. Guess I'll be going now!

Hubba hubba... :lol:

If it is the same one I am thinking of at the 14th and U location, I am also a fan. She seems very.....smart. :lol:

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B&P in Shirlington for Lunch Saturday..first off food and politics don't mix..the food: very good veggie burger with a side of cpmpetent fries; wife had great buck wheat waffles; service....good waitress but lousy, surly jihadist bartender wouldn't refill our tea and water glasses when we move to the bar..peace and love, yeah sure!! The politics: best decribed as the mainstreaming of radical chic, a very troubling trend in Democratic Party politics these days (check out the Obama-with-halo painting!)..."Kill Bush and Cheney" T-shirts for sale, waiter with untranslatable Arabic script on their black tee shirts...don't dare, as my wife did, to bring one of the books into the dining area, you will be chided with a shark's tooth smile and warning....any right wing nuts out there want to open a restaurant: call it Stormtroopers and Blackshirts and serve killer (literally?) brats..just joking! as the Soup Nazi said..NEXT!!

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I took my deep breath and apologize for the jihadist label, BUT the bartender is one of the few rude and unhelpful bartenders we have ever run into in this area..the waitress was gracious and rolled her eyes at that guy, then had an argument with him over the refill issue. Normaly, bartenders are among the most eager to please of wait staff....that is why we eat at the bar most of time in many places. ..BTW.. I take issue at "Kill" anybody t-shirts

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I had the buckwheat waffles with a side of bacon. The waffles were depressing. The whole point of going out for Belgian-style waffles is the crisp, delicious edges. These were those bendy, flaccid things. The bacon was weak on flavor. Heh... The service was friendly, but full of neglect. I asked for some napkins, and no one ever came with them despite us being right next to the server station. Eventually I just asked my friend to to turn around and pull a few off.

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You can call in takeout orders for lunch here, which I do occasionally at the downtown location. The sandwiches are reasonably priced (generally $8-10), fresh, and pretty tasty. I'm partial to the reuben, and today had a brie/caramelizedOnion/tomato/spinach panini that was real tasty. The included wedge fries mostly remain crispy in transit back to the office, which is a good thing.

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I've eaten at the 14th Street and Shirlington locations multiple times and both are consistent with regard to the slow service. The waitstaff are very pleasant...just don't be in a hurry.

The food is mediocre at best. I've eaten from the breakfast and lunch menus and nothing is executed well and frankly, I don't much like eating there any more.

I think the draw is the vibe of the place and the fact that it's kinda European in feel...you can sit for as long as you like...no one is pushing you out.

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I've eaten at the 14th Street and Shirlington locations multiple times and both are consistent with regard to the slow service. The waitstaff are very pleasant...just don't be in a hurry.

The food is mediocre at best. I've eaten from the breakfast and lunch menus and nothing is executed well and frankly, I don't much like eating there any more.

I think the draw is the vibe of the place and the fact that it's kinda European in feel...you can sit for as long as you like...no one is pushing you out.

No posts here about B&P in more than three years. Before enjoying the new Woody Allen movie--"To Rome With Love" (his best work since "Match Point" imho)--we had an exceptional al fresco lunch at the Shirlington outpost. We shared a hummus appetizer that was very good but not as subtle as Nostos. Entree #1 was a nicely prepared grilled panini sandwich with havarti, avocado, arugula, and roasted red pepper on superior multi-grain bread. Entree #2 was a deceptively complex dish of beans and wild rice with guacamole, pico de gallo and grilled chicken. Wait staff was friendly and professional. Nothing was OVERSALTED. B&P derserves a shout out. By far the best restaurant in an admittedly hurting Shirlington.

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I think I went to the original Busboys once or twice long long ago, but hadn't been back to any of the newer outposts in years. Now that there is a new location in Brookland, we went to check it out a couple weeks ago with some friends.

First impressions are that I like the space (which is not dissimilar from other locations I think). It's big and open and has a good amount of space. One pretty big disappointment was that they ran out of highchairs (we arrived at 5pm) and couldn't provide one for us the whole time we were there. There weren't that many little kids when I looked around the dining room, so I was surprised they seemed to have so few highchairs. For a neighborhood like Brookland that has been starved for places for families to eat out, the other newer restaurants have seemed more accommodating. Our server was also kind of slow getting around to us, and our food took a bit to come out. However, all that said, we ended up really liking the food we had. The menu is enormous though, so I'm not sure if we just happened to hit on some good things or if everything is good.

Egyptian Foole Dip ($7 warm fava bean dip served with tomatoes, scallions, jalapeí±os, olive oil and toasted pita) - we liked this as a nice alternative to hummus, and it's served warm. The pita tasted fresh as well. Despite the mention of jalapenos it wasn't too spicy. In fact, our daughter was literally eating it out of the bowl with a spoon at one point.

Grilled Chicken Panini ($11 with chipotle mayo, caramelized onions, pepper jack, lettuce and tomato on ciabatta)- with choice of "¢ house-made kettle chips "¢ seasonal fresh fruit "¢ side house salad "¢ fries "¢ sweet potato fries "¢ - I liked this a lot, and the sandwich was enormous. Good level of spice and good chicken. The sweet potato fries were fresh, hot, and crispy (another winner with the kiddo).

Orzo Pasta ($14 with sweet potato, asparagus, shallots, shiitake, red pepper and kale, tossed in a tomato olive oil sauce) - yet another thing our daughter liked (can you tell why this place won us over?), and my +1 and I liked it as well. Nothing too fancy, but good flavor and lots of vegetables mixed in.

Not that we're usually looking for weekday breakfasts, but I like that this is an option. Hopefully there's a need for work from home folks in the neighborhood to have a place to go (we don't have a coffee shop yet until Filter/Bike Rack opens).

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