Mar 12 2019
3 Minutes to read

At ezCater, we’re inspired by chefs and restaurant operators who take their passion for food and catering and turn it into a career. As a partner who helps them build their catering business, we’re proud to share their stories with you.


In a rapidly changing city, Andy Shallal feared that the culture of D.C.’s vibrant neighborhoods would be lost to gentrification. So he created a place for artists, activists, and writers of the community to gather and break bread at his bookstore and restaurant chain Busboys and Poets. People love Busboys and Poets not only for its lively atmosphere, poetry events, and nourishing food, but also for its catering. Here’s the story behind Andy Shallal’s Busboys and Poets.

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Andy Shallal: D.C. is changing. It’s changing very rapidly. A lot of culture—the very fabric of D.C. is disappearing. I wanted to create a space that could hold on to some of that. We opened Busboys and Poets in 2005. We started out with one in the U Street Corridor, and we’ve opened three more in Washington, D.C., one in Virginia, and one in Maryland. People come here because they love the ambience, they love the experience, and they enjoy the poetry.

We have a wonderful independent bookstore that we operate in all of our locations, which is a rare thing these days. But it’s not enough to just tell people we have good poetry. It’s not enough to just tell people we have good books. I had to make sure that the food was “the hook.” That’s what people come for. We have really good food. People want to connect with one another as human beings. We break bread to get together. We meet each other for breakfast. We meet each other for dinner. I mean, food is part of our humanity.

We wanted to transport that to people’s offices and businesses so they could enjoy that same kind of experience and ambience they have when they get here. We also have a wonderful bar. We have a place where people can hang out, sit [and use the] Wi-Fi, and write the next Great American Novel.

Busboys and Poets is named after the great poet Langston Hughes. He was working as a busboy while writing poetry, trying to get published. Langston Hughes was spectacular in his ability to keep the sense of hope and possibility in people. That’s what poetry is. We can’t give up on that.

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