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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.0
9.7
$35
American
Café

Hours
Sun–Thu 7:30am–1:00am
Fri–Sat 24 hours

Features Date-friendly, kid-friendly, live music, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.kramers.com

Dupont
1517 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 387-1400
Afterwords Café
Literature, food, and delicious desserts, late into the evening—is this a lost Renaissance?

The Afterwords Café, which is part of Kramerbooks, one of the city’s most beloved independent booksellers, is an absolute DC original—yesterday, today, and hopefully forevermore. Kramerbooks is certainly a wonderful retreat in and of itself, serious but also social. It’s only logical that such a place would install a complementary café to allow its patrons to graze titles over coffee, wine, and appetizers. Still, many Washingtonians bypass the literature and local authors and head straight to brunch—or take advantage of the late hours to stop at the end of the night for dessert and cocktails. This is an establishment with endurance.

The clientele at Afterwords includes a healthy mix of coffee-hugging solo readers, friendly duos catching up over brunch, and groups of four or five sharing beer and steamed mussels. Most of the café (except the bar scene) is housed in a sky-lighted annex to Kramer’s; the greenhouse effect makes the place cozy in winter, and air-conditioning keeps it cool in the summer. It’s an ideal place to meet friends for beer and wine accompanied by a plate of the well-loved, sky-high nachitos. They’re just what you’d expect: tri-colored chips, good-quality shredded cheese, chili, salsa, and sour cream—in short, more than enough toppings to completely smother the chips.

The notion of pairing food and books is indeed a fine one, and Afterwords goes far beyond nachitos and the traditional coffee-plus-pastries of chain bookstores—you might say it’s politically-influenced New American (and up-to-date, too; in 2008, there was already a sandwich named for Obama in the early primary season). The café’s most popular meal, by far, is brunch. Many of the egg offerings are quite rightly lauded. The “Nouvelle Leo,” for example, is a scramble of “café-cured Atlantic salmon” coupled with scallions and sweet peppers and topped with a dollop of caviar. The selection of Benedict dishes is no less creative, and the eggs, whether scrambled or poached, are prepared with a light touch, even if the toast is plain and bagels seem to be of the frozen-and-toasted variety.

By night, many come just to partake of the “Death By Chocolate,” a flourless cake that has a deservedly serious following. Delicious though it may be, it’s not just the cake they’re following. It’s the commitment to the idea that in a world of chains, an independent, literary way of life is still possible.

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