Busboys and Poets

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Busboys and Poets Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC's U Street Corridor is a famed restaurant, bar, bookstore, & more. Get your creative juices flowing in DC with Party Earth. Washington, DC United States 38.917992 -77.031863
3.93 16
Busboys and Poets - Bar | Café | Restaurant in Washington, DC.
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Party Earth Review Just north of the main party hub of U Street, progressive-minded locals can be found at Busboys and Poets, a celebrated restaurant, bar, bookstore, and art gallery where creative thought flows as freely as the house sangria... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    Green, Yellow Lines: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

  • Phone:


  • Links:

  • Hours:

    Bar: M–Th 8am–midnight, F 8am–2am, Sa 9am–2am, Su 9am–midnight
    Bookstore: M–Th, Su 10am–midnight, F¬–Sa 10am–2am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Busboys and Poets Review

The Scene

Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC's U Street Corridor is a famed restaurant, bar, bookstore, & more. Get your creative juices flowing in DC with Party Earth.

Just north of the main party hub of U Street, progressive-minded locals can be found at Busboys and Poets, a celebrated restaurant, bar, bookstore, and art gallery where creative thought flows as freely as the house sangria.

Midweek finds mellow regulars congregating in the lounge, where they while away the afternoon on comfy chairs and sofas perfect for discussing Nietzsche over chai lattes and pomegranate juice.

Young couples start filtering in around 7pm, but if there’s a long wait for a dinner table, they join the literati in the bookstore to peruse tomes on everything from Langston Hughes to human sexuality and eco design.

An expansive civil rights-themed mural covers one wall – just one of many featured art pieces – and overlooks diners as they choose from the vegan and vegetarian selections that pack the menu or the range of hearty options like gorgonzola burgers and meatloaf.

Woven into nearly every night are spoken word, poetry, and open-mic sessions held on the stage in the back, which guests enjoy as they sip fruity cocktails from the bar.

On the weekends, brunch brings budget-minded college kids in to cure their hangovers with eggs and bacon or some “healthy” gluten-free beer.

For a bite, a book, some booze, or some brainy fun, Busboys and Poets offers guests a lot of prose and very few cons.

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Tip from Jonah:

Okay, we all know spoken word has a propensity to be…god-awful. But the sessions at Busboys are known for attracting some seriously talented folks, and always provide intriguing perspectives on life, work, and social concerns…and sometimes they’re god-awful.

  • Crowd

    Progressive-minded locals, hipsters, artsy students, sardonic poets, lyricists, activists, and professorial types, 20s to late 50s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Packed schedule includes near-nightly poetry readings, spoken word, book discussions, minority group meetings, open-mic nights, and more. Check venue website for latest calendar of events. Free Wi-Fi.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Full menu of American favorites like omelets, burgers, and pizza, as well as hot panini, sandwiches, and tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes. Happy Hour M–F 4–7pm.

  • Prices

    Brunch menu $5–$13, appetizers $5–$10, soups $6–$7.50, salads $6–$15, entrées $9–$24. Beer $6, wine $7–$9/glass or $28–$36/bottle, cocktails $9–$12.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual to business casual: jeans, plaid, flannel, flats, hipster glasses, dress pants, heels, nice tops, blazers.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any night when there’s live entertainment of interest, after 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays for a large, diverse crowd, or weekends to join a sizeable throng working through their hangovers, studying, or just spending the day relaxing over a good book.

  • Close By

    Utopia Jazz Club (1418 U Street) is located a block and a half away, and features regular jazz quartets and lots of intriguing cocktails.

Busboys and Poets User Reviews

Average rating:
Cultural Hub and Cafe Upgrade for All
Rekara G. Aug 7, 2013
Busboys delivers! Whether you are looking for a place with free WiFi to get some work done on a lazy afternoon, a place to grab Sunday brunch or Friday night happy hour with friends, Busboys is a great local spot for all that and more. With at least 3 locations in the DMV area, it's clearly a growing hotspot. I'm completely into the spoken word/art scene so I was completely comfortable. Any time I've been, the environment is welcoming and positive, which is the response I get from a lot of people who have been. Even if you have never been to a venue like this one, try it. Their bookstore includes classics like A Raisin in the Sun to new bestsellers like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And they range from children's books to adult fiction, bestsellers and more independent works. They have kid's storytelling called Rise and Rhyme, which I've been to with my niece. I've come to Busboys before a night out for drinks and their sweet potato pancakes during brunch are amazing. Whether you are into the scene or not, it's a overall great place to have in the community and it's family-friendly. The support and exposure it offers for artists is awesome. They even have had inspirations such as Alice Walker and StaceyAnn Chin come to perform and promote their work. It represents the creativity and variety of people in the city, which is one of our best selling points, right? You need a place to work but are tired of Starbucks or the library? It's great for that. Need a movie-night alternative? Poetry readings abound. Want to explore a new scene? New foods? Although the popularity of open mics are spreading in the area, this is a great way to meet new people and maybe even get a jump start on trying a vegetarian or vegan meal. Never had a bad experience.
Great Start for Poetry Virgins
Khai H. Jun 8, 2013
The eclectic mix of bookstore, coffee shop, performing artists, and food/alcohol really threw me in for a loop. While I was completely out of my element listening to spoken poetry, the atmosphere was very down-to-earth. One D.C. tap-water later and I was having a great time. There wasn't any awkwardness, and my fears of rude/snobby art types proved false- people are just there to kick back, relax, have some fun, and maybe have some thought provoking conversation as well. It takes more than one trip to really get a feel of the place. Don't feel like you only have to go for performances. The menu prices are low enough to do casual meals here, and the food is pretty delicious.
Food for your Soul
Stephanie D. Jun 6, 2013
I love this place!! I always come here when I have a taste for something good. I love their catfish platter, chipotle grilled chicken Panini, and French toast!! I love the friendly atmosphere. It's always crowded so I love that they have the bookstore to chill in until your tables ready. I've even been there to watch one of their featured films (suggested by a professor) and I was still able to get a good meal with only $20 bucks to spare!! I definitely need to go on a spoken word night!
Verses, Vision, Vibes
Madison J. Apr 27, 2013
In a city that is often plagued with the hustle and bustle of commuter-city-on-political-steroids, Busboys and Poets offers the rare opportunity for a friendly atmosphere and peaceful, relaxed dining. Before customers eat, they are welcomed into the bookstore, which boasts dozens of free-trade or environmentally friendly products. This fun shop is a prelude to the beautifully orchestrated vibes of Busboys and Poets. The restaurant continues to offer an entertaining and socially conscious experience for its guests. The menu accommodates a wide variety of needs, offering delicious selections with vegan, gluten-free, farm friendly, and environmentally sustainable dishes. Carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, and "omnom"nivores alike will be able to find a healthy and mouth-watering meal on Busboys and Poets' eclectic and conscientious menu. This restaurant is unique in its creative and community-centric activities. Open mics, poetry readings, small musical acts, and art shows are all hosted by Busboys and Poets. The dining experience itself is an art show- pieces and fixtures from local talent are featured all throughout the building, and every inch of space is covered in art form. Unique hip hop selections and feel-good alternative jams serenade guests, while a crew of young and attractive servers and hosts offer friendly service to guests of all ages. The fun atmosphere and unique social experience of Busboys and Poets is a must-see for anyone living or visiting in the District.
Sophisticated yet Casual
Christine W. Apr 22, 2013
The history and culture that defines Bus Boys and Poets shines through in everything from the bookstore to the diverse menu. If you show up during a busy time without a reservation, feel free to browse through the book shelves and find everything from children's books to Civil Rights era biographies. Once you explore the menu, you'll find sophisticated yet casual items that accommodate vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike. The portion sizes could be bigger, but Busboys makes up for the quantity with the quality of ingredients in its food. If spoken word poetry slams peak your interests, make sure to get your ticket early for the weekly open mic nights on Fridays at 11pm. The tickets sell out FAST, so get yours early in the day. The spoken word poets can sometimes be hit or miss, but Busboys always showcases a great poet.
Food for thought; thought for food
Meg M. Mar 25, 2013
Busboys and Poets satisfies both the belly and the mind in this bar, bookstore, art gallery and restaurant. Recently opening its fourth addition (two in the district, one in Hyattsville and another in Shirlington), Busboys and Poets presents a comfortable atmosphere with couches for your morning coffee and brunch or tables for dinner and drinks with friends. Eclectic art pieces hang all over the walls; as do murals and bookshelves. There are always thought-provoking events occurring here, from film showings to poetry slams to open mic nights, and most are open to the public. The crowd ranges at all different times of the day as well as at night, depending on the event being held. College kids, professionals, older folks, really anyone in the mood for thoughtful conversation and atmosphere can be found at Busboys and Poets.
A hip hangout where you talk with your mouth full
Katie B. Feb 21, 2013
Busboys and Poets introduces itself as an instant conversation piece the moment you walk in the door: from the eclectic bookstore offering the literature you wish you had been required to read in college to the diverse collection of artwork on the richly colored walls, this place ushers you in with a friendly “hey friend, welcome to the discussion.” It’s a unique restaurant that has a “tribal statement,” which their website says is to facilitate conversation by combining culture, politics, art and food. And you can tell just by looking at the people that this place is where it’s at. This is where the young intellectual elite of DC come to socialize. Between the clean young business couple sipping cocktails on a date to the Howard students in jeans and scarves staring at their MacBooks, you’re probably the least hip person there. But one of the great things about Busboys is that all the tables are so close together that it’s normal and natural to strike up a conversation with the party next to you. It’s a refreshingly social and friendly atmosphere compared to most dining experiences. Busboys not only serves up an excellent ambiance but amazing food. They have an extensive vegetarian, vegan and gluten free menu that seriously delivers. For a vegetarian who frequently has to settle when eating out, Busboys and Poets is a veggie mecca. The vegan nachos alone were a feast of epic proportions – literally, it’s stacked like a foot tall when they bring it out. They have a decent selection of craft beers and a lot of delicious-sounding cocktails. Be sure to come hungry and on payday, because this is a place where you’ll want to run your hand down the menu and tell the waiter “yes, I’ll have it all please.”
Too "hipster" for me
Jody P. Nov 30, 2012
After hearing tons of friends rave about this place, I just had to try it myself. Although not a vegetarian/vegan myself, I appreciate the vegetarian/vegan options that they have there. In the grand scheme of things in D.C., it is not super expensive. There are poetry readings and other types of entertainment here. The night I went had a spoken-word performance. I'm sure someone in the know would have said it was very good but I guess I just don't "get" it. To me, it just seems like a lot of people waiting in line for food that is nothing super special. You'd probably like it if you are into progressive poetry/performance, but this place just wasn't for me.
Your local coffee house on steroids with a sunny energy
Sherry M. Nov 23, 2012
I hear Busboys and Poets and think aaah, the comfort of your local coffee house. But this one is big, so call it your coffee house on steroids. I go there on all different occasions - most often to do some reading or work independently, while simultaneously enjoying and tuning out the buzz around me. Other times I'm there to meet up with some girl friend who live in or around the U street area - it's a convenient place to catch up, grab a drink and a bite to eat. Also noteworthy is the sunlight that comes in from the huge windows that line the front of Busboys. So you don't feel like you're stuck in a basement or cave somewhere. Sunshine, energy, good coffee, friendly atmosphere.
Sandy S. Sep 6, 2012
You can pretty much call this place as a sort of a landmark in DC now but the great thing is you can still read a book from the bookstore and have some decent food while you are visiting. I am not sure what you can call this place but it seems like a spot where thinkers can gather to debate different social and political issues over a grand meal. I was more intrigued by the nature of the place since it is owned by Andy Shallal an Iraqi American activist who has used this place more as an extension of his beliefs. I was here for Sunday brunch and I think it was one of the perfect times to visit this place as the mixture of digging into the bookstore to find a book that you really wanted and then having a hearty meal is one of the best feelings I could ever ask for. They have a pretty massive vegetarian menu which is great for a veggie like me and if you have walked around the block before you settled down over a book and some food, it comes close to the perfect Sunday brunch you can ever have!
hungry hungry hipsters!
Jayson M. Aug 15, 2012
Very popular, quite large, and full of more guys in handlebar mustaches than a Civil War-era saloon. I love coming here for brunch (I’m big into the Bloody Marys) but it’s also great just to pop into early, grab a book, and kill a pot of coffee. Side note: don’t walk in here if you still have a cup from Starbuck’s up the street, you might be assassinated. I’ve been to great open mics here and I’ve been to poetry slams that made me want to slam my heads into a wall; such is life. Their sweet potato fries make up for even the most ear-piercing prose.
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