Busboys and Poets opened a long-awaited new location in Anacostia on Tuesday, and owner Andy Shallal said he hopes to give Ward 8 residents a new place to enjoy themselves in the midst of a food desert with few sit-down restaurants.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser cut the ribbon on the storefront Tuesday afternoon.
East of the Anacostia River, food options are scarce. Between Ward 7 and 8, there are only three supermarkets, and few dining options. Shallal said he wants to help change that.
“For a long time, this area was really neglected,” he said. “A lot of amenities that we take for granted on the other side of town are hard to find around here. There’s not a place where people hang out and do work outside of the office or meet somebody for breakfast … Even if you want a cup of coffee in the morning, you’d have to wait, you’d have to go across the bridge.”
Busboys and Poets has six other locations across D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The business gained local fame through community events, books in each location and menus that accommodate dietary restrictions.
The new Anacostia location has a private room named after "Mayor for Life" Marion Barry. The room will be used for performances and events.
“Marion Barry ... is beloved,” Shallal said. “I think [he’s] someone [who] cared a lot about the folks of Ward 8.”
Busboys and Poets commissioned artists to create pieces that represent Ward 8. There's an entire wall of work from students from Congress Heights in collaboration with NationHouse Arts.
“We’re really excited to be a part of this fabric of the community,” Shallal said. “We didn’t just parachute in. We came in here with intention. We came in here … involving everyone in the community, to make sure everything we do is by and for the people.”
Some locals have expressed concern that Busboys is contributing to gentrification. Shallal instead blamed "how land is allocated, how government decides to tax [and] how rent control happens."
“We are not the cause,” Shallal said. “We are a symptom.”
The owner said he's excited for the new location’s role in the Southeast D.C. community.
“[Anacostia] is an area that’s vibrant, that’s exciting. This is a community that wants to have … options. That’s why we’re here," he said.