Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District

Welcome, Busboys and Poets, to the Gateway Arts District!

Written by Justin Fair in September 2011, for  Soulstrong Arts Blog Pink Line Project’s “Pink Noise” Arts Blog, and the Gateway Arts District “Gateway on Foot” series:

One of the newest additions to the Arts District Hyattsville, and very much its heart and home, Busboys & Poets’s newest location is a shining example of what hard work, lots of energy, and inspiration can bring. Talk about finding—no wait, creating a niche: Busboys & Poets is part-restaurant, part-bar, part-coffee shop, part-performance space, part-events room, part-art supplies store, and it’ll find new uses I’m sure. Last night I had the pleasure of visiting Busboys after too long a wait. My roommate Laura came down to Brentwood, picked me up from work, and off we headed: taking a moment to stop by the mural for the future site of the Prince George’s African American Museum; walking a few feet over to Fixtures Plus so I could look into display items for the Hyattsville Arts Festival (Sept. 24); and finally, making our way past the lovely outdoor eating area, into a very cozy and welcoming restaurant.

The first thing I noticed about Busboys, was the friendly and youthful waitstaff. There were waiters, waitresses, and busboys (of course) chatting with customers, the sounds of laughter and energy flooding the room. The visual impact upon entering is stunning: there’s a gorgeous mural wrapping the restaurant; there’s accent lighting galore and fun-finds on the walls and ceiling; there are tables, couches, booths, and stools for the bar; and, last but not least, a television in the corner for said bar. Their bathrooms are neat too! There are rocks in a rectangular cistern for the sink, fun ‘50s tile bordering the room, and of course, there’s even art in the restrooms. I recommend you come at night, once Laura and I sat down and ordered our food, we realized after losing track of time just how gorgeous a sunset and the nighttime allows the restaurant to glow. The golden wall colors pop out, the beautiful tapestry on the booths glow, and the people truly get to feel the nightlife.

EYA’s Artistic Rendering of the Corridor

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to “meet” Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys & Poets, at the 5th & K location where I attended “B Certified Corporations: New Thinking for a New Kind of Business,” moderated by Amy Kincaid, Principal of Change Matters, a social enterprise consultancy that works with entrepreneurs, executives, advisors, funders, and investors in both tax-exempt social enterprises and not-just-for-profit socially-responsible businesses. Being a panel discussion in the Zinn Room, which was packed, I didn’t really get to formally meet Mr. Shallal, but it was a blessing to hear him speak about Busboys being a B Corporation and hear more about why Busboys has such a socio-political impact with its community.

Quoting from the Gazette:

“[Busboys and Poets] is a place where art, culture and politics align,” Shallal said. “Hyattsville … [has] all kinds of people, different cultures, backgrounds [and] economic statuses.”

The Hyattsville location, which has seating for about 350 people and room for about another 100 on the patio, has a special room in the back. Named for historian and social activist Howard Zinn and adorned with a mural featuring the words and images of people including Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the room contains a stage, microphone and video projector for performances.

While I didn’t get to see the Zinn Room, my co-worker Malika has been raving about how gorgeous it is. And if it’s anything like the U St or the 5th & K locations, it’s worth the visit.

As a whole, Busboys & Poets is a benefit to the community and a welcoming guide for other businesses and folks to come into the Gateway Arts District. After our dinner—Laura had the Steak & Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese and I had the Roasted Chicken Panini—both were delicious (and pretty too!), we walked around Yes! Organic Market (cooool), walked through The Big Bad Woof, visited artdc Gallery, and walked through the townhome community. I’m glad to see how energized and inspired people really are coming to the newest town center here. I can’t say it enough! I was sold. I recommend you spend a lazy Sunday enjoying the poetry in the air!

For more information on Busboys & Poets, visit their website for hours & events, their blog for feedback, and the following community articles and pages (this post is cross-posted on Pink Line Project too). Also, if you’re able–this Friday, 9/2, Busboys is hosting Busboys & Poets FIRST FRIDAYS from 5-8pm with artdc Gallery whose reception, “Fashion is art.” is having its closing reception at 7-10pm, co-sponsored by VM Photography & Makeup.

View some local reviews below:


About Hyattsville CDC

Economic Development Coordinator for the Hyattsville CDC

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2011 by in Gateway on Foot and tagged , , , .


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