DISH OF THE MONTH: Creative Hotspot Busboys and Poets

Busboys and Poets is first and foremost a community gathering place. Closest to e-lofts is the Campbell Ave location, where it can be found in the Village at Shirlington. The name “Busboys and Poets” refers to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1920s before gaining recognition as a poet.

We chatted with Laela Shallal, VP of Finance and Marketing at Busboys and Poets. (Fun fact: she’s also the daughter of restaurant founder Andy Shallal!) Laela gave us an inside scoop on everything Busboys and Poets– including a delicious dish for this month’s spotlight! Read more below and make sure to stop in for your favorite cup of joe, quick bite to eat, or just to delve into the local creative scene!

Hi Laela! Thanks so much for chatting with us for the e-lofts blog. To begin, please explain the cuisine and unique concept behind Busboys and Poets?

Busboys and Poets’ menu hopes to offer a little something for everyone. We have a healthy selection of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items, as well as meat and seafood items. We pride ourselves on sourcing sustainably while still keeping value in mind. Our eggs are cage-free and organic, our milk is local and organic, beef is grass-fed and local, chicken is hormone-free, and we serve primarily sustainable seafood. Our coffee is fair-trade and we’ve created our own coffee blend with roaster La Colombe.  Other eco-friendly initiatives include using 100% renewable wind energy, green cleaning supplies, and portable containers.

Your website says, “we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.” Can you please explain this a bit further?

Busboys and Poets was founded by my dad, Andy Shallal, who wanted to create a literary and welcoming space where everyone can feel a sense of belonging, regardless of their racial or cultural background. Many of the event programming we do, authors we host, donations we give to organizations, are all in keeping with the mission to inspire social change and to create a better tomorrow. This year we closed all six of our locations for A Day Without Immigrants to stand in solidarity with our (legal) immigrant workers and community believing that immigrants help make our country great.  


(Pictured Above: Pan Roasted Chicken & Vegan Nachos)

Busboys and Poets is not just a restaurant, but also a book store! Can you tell us about some of the local authors and books you are currently featuring? Where do you find these authors?

Busboys and Poets aims to be not just a restaurant, but also a space in which intellectual, cultural, political, and social issues can come together for a discussion that benefits everyone. Our bookstore, Busboys and Poets Books, aims to be a space in which literature, politics, society, and social justice can be engaged with in a productive and exciting atmosphere. Our events calendar on our website is the best way to find out about upcoming events.


On September 12th we’re hosting Juan Gonzàlez at the 5th & K location. A well-respected columnist with the New York Daily News from 1987-2016, Juan González has focused his legendary investigative reporting on New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio in “Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities.” González is the co-host of nationally syndicated Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

Is Busboys and Poets also a theatre? Tell us about this. Any shows coming up our residents should know about?

We regularly have live performances at all of our locations.  We have open mic poetry nights Monday -Thursday at all the Busboys locations. Every Monday at 8pm is open mic poetry night at our Shirlington, VA location.

What do customers love most about Busboys and Poets?

I think people love the ambiance and diverse clientele.  Busboys has received much critical acclaim for the variety of the menu – both meat-eaters AND plant-based eaters can be satisfied.

What about the different poetry events, is there a way our residents can submit/perform their poetry?

Yes, everyone can perform! Our poetry events are only $5 and anyone can sign up to perform when they arrive.

What is your favorite part about working at Busboys and Poets?

The ability to bring my full self to work.

What is one of your favorite menu items?

My regular order is the Avocado Panini with vegan mozzarella, arugula, roasted red pepper on vegan multi-grain bread. I get a side of sweet potato fries.

What dish and/or beverage is the most popular among customers?

Our blackened salmon entrée with wild rice and asparagus is one of the most popular dishes. It’s gluten-free, healthy and filling!

Do you have any specials during the week our residents should know about?

Happy Hour is every Monday-Friday from 4-7pm!

Is there anything else you want the community at e-lofts to know about Busboys and Poets?

Entrepreneur Magazine named Busboys and Poets the best coffee house to work in across the U.S.!

Busboys and Poets “Dish of the Month” – Blackened Salmon

We love this dish of the month from Busboys and Poets! Pictured below is the Blackened Salmon entree served with wild rice, asparagus, roasted corn salsa, tomato, shallots and lemon butter sauce. Yum! Busboys and Poets is a unique and multifaceted cafe serving up great local eats, but Laela says the blackened salmon is a tried and true crowd favorite.

Have you tried the blackened salmon yet? If not, stop in for a bite and and let us know your thoughts. Visit their location at 4251 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206. Be sure to check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more delicious eats, inspiring photos, and going ons! Big thanks again to Laela Shallal for chatting with us about Busboys and Poets!