A Conversation with Andy Shallal: Bringing a New Meaning to Community

For those of you who have had the delight of dining at the famous Busboys & Poets, you’ve probably noticed the inspirational murals lining the walls. These beautiful pieces are the works of art of Andy Shallal, a well-known artist, activist, and founder of Busboys & Poets.

Andy has been in the restaurant business for years, but in 2005, he opened the first Busboys & Poets at 14th & V St, NW. These restaurants combine the elements of art, books, performance, culture, and good food under one roof. As Andy describes it, Busboys & Poets is, “a place where multiple layers of things are happening”.

The inspiration for Andy’s unique business model is rooted in his goal: to break-down barriers and create a holistic community in which the city’s ethnic, literary, arts, and international elements are combined. Andy’s heroic efforts speak to his influential role in redefining the DC community as a less segmented and segregated community.

Poetry — Andy’s personal favorite — serves as a great art form and a community builder that actively brings people together to foster this vision of community. Running about 20 poetry programs monthly, Busboys has been instrumental in inspiring a renaissance of poetry in the U Street area.

On top of Andy’s commitment to building community and serving amazing food, he also strives to inspire and implement a deeper meaning of sustainability. Being a part of the first Earth Day had a big impact on Andy as a child — he saw the need to get involved in effecting change in one’s community.

For Andy, sustainability has a deeper meaning than responsibly sourced food and switching to 100% wind energy — although Busboys & Poets does both. It’s about providing a sustainable environment for the community, for his staff, and for the world. Above all, sustainability is social justice.

If you are as inspired by Andy Shallal as I was when I had the fortune of meeting him, check out Busboys & Poets Upcoming Events to get involved.