Busboys and Poets, which opened in 2005, is now a local landmark. A celebration of famed poet Langston Hughes, the restaurant seeks to provide a space where the barriers between people can be bridged over good food and drink. Their menu provides enough to satisfy all tastes and is a reliable go-to for a first date or a solid night out with friends.
The restaurant is a place to feed the soul as well as the stomach. It houses a unique non-profit bookstore full of hard-to-find progressive literature, as well as a great performance space that has hosted the likes of Howard Zinn. Both DC locations use 100% wind power. Their vanilla and coconut ice creams are from Taharka Brothers, a social business venture that hires young urban men and teaches them business strategy.
Not surprisingly, there is a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan choices on the lunch and dinner menu. It’s one of the few places where I don’t order the same thing every time (if you’re vegetarian, you might know what I mean). For example, five out of the seven panini choices are vegan or vegetarian, and they offer vegan and vegetarian versions of their tasty nachos.
On my last visit, I tried the grilled brie panini with spinach, caramelized onions, and tomato on ciabatta. If you like sweet-savory combinations, definitely go for this one. The onions seem to have been cooked with a good bit of sugar (not my thing; I prefer caramelized onions that have developed their own sugars). I was also a bit disappointed to get floppy shoestring fries on the side rather than the wedge-cut fries they used to serve.
My standby is actually the flavorful and satisfying portobello mushroom panini with pesto, roasted red pepper, and fresh mozzarella on herb ciabatta. And for the kid in you, try the peanut butter and banana panini with agave nectar on french loaf.
Two of my dining companions chose the excellent house-made veggie burger served with arugula, avocado, and tomato on a wheat bun. Busboys’ burger features potatoes and tastes of Indian spices.
The orzo with sweet potato, asparagus, shallots, shiitake, red pepper and kale, tossed in a tomato olive oil sauce makes a colorful and tasty vegan choice. It benefits from a sprinkle of salt and I can only imagine it with grated parmesan, but the balance of vegetables and pasta is refreshing.
For a light but filling meal, try the subtly spiced harira, a Moroccan bean soup. This way, you’ll have room for one of Busboys’ many delicious desserts (if in doubt, just go for the mini apple pie a la mode).
Busboys is popular with late diners so if the wait is too long just head over to Eatonville, their sister restaurant, right across the street.
Busboys and Poets
2021 14th St, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009