Big Boy on the Block
Although the liberal and artsy leanings of the space don't suggest competitive conflict, Busboys and Poets seems like it's trying to knock Tryst and Kramerbooks out the box. Tom Sietsema recently weighed in on the food but really, it's not about the food. Well, it's kinda about the food because it's cheap and good, and that counts for a lot with singles stretching their date budgets. More on that shortly.
Owner Andy Shallal is positioning his new venture as a depot for intellectuals and activists to work, share and socialize. Hefty luminaries like Harry Belafonte and Amiri Baraka have already appeared on the packed schedule of events. But this blog isn't about that stuff either, as welcome as it is.
I'm just here to predict that Busboys and Poets is about to be a serious social scene. The location is great, the look is appealing, the prices are right and the vibe is gelling nicely.
This past Saturday I made my maiden voyage and was pleasantly surprised to find a mixed crowd varying widely across age, race and social spectra. Some were on dates, others were on group outings or just browsing and chatting in the bookstore and a few were just trying to get some new numbers in their cell phones. People-watching opportunities abounded. A pair of DJs dropped dub, Afro and Brazilian plates;being a DJ and live-music junkie myself, I immediately took note of the array of high-end powered speakers optimally installed throughout the sizable room. This is one of the few establishments where the sound system is set up to strike the prime balance between allowing conversation and creating a mood.
A second visit on a weeknight presented a different side, with some folks nestled up with their laptops, a few large groups of friends having dinner and an after work crowd just wrapping up for the evening.
The decor takes the best elements of chic lounge and coffeehouse and marries them nicely. It's comfortable but sleek, a combination not easily achieved. It's also a non-smoking establishment. Forgive me if I sound partisan in light of the local smoking wars, but the absence of an acrid haze just makes everything sexier. Busboys and Poets is the new crucial date spot, especially when you can get a decent-sized personal pizza and a Delirium on tap and still kick in for dessert with little more than a twenty. And you can do that before or after you take in some poetry, an indie film screening or an emerging theater piece. The way they're making good on tons of potential is exciting and leads one to think, "If only they had a dancefloor." That might be too much to ask based on hawkish ABC and ANC policy. But in the meantime, Busboys and Poets is making its presence known in a big way.
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