The lower-level café at Politics and Prose reopens officially this Thursday, April 14th. It’s called “The Den,” because where else would a Little Red Fox make its second home?
Yes, Little Red Fox, just down the street from Politics and Prose, is also operating the bookstore’s newly-renovated café. Politics and Prose co-owner Brad Graham and Little Red Fox co-owner Matt Carr met with me last week to show me around and explain how this partnership came to be.
Gone are the hodge-podge of worn-in tables and chairs, and the well-trod linoleum tile floors. Carr has put his stamp on the décor, which is similar to Little Red Fox in its use of wood and lighting.
The space is sleek yet inviting, with substantial wood tables and paneling, unique lighting fixtures and light gray polished concrete floor. The black metal chairs and stools provide a nice contrast with the warm red hues of the wood.
When Graham and Politics and Prose co-owner Lissa Muscatine bought the store, they knew wanted to do this renovation. It is fortuitous that Carr came onto the scene. Soon after he and wife Jena Carr opened Little Red Fox in 2013, a relationship developed. So Graham and Muscatine waited for the previous café operator’s lease to run its course while beginning to plan with Carr.
Graham and Muscatine gave up their staff office to give The Den space to accommodate 60 customers, a 50 percent increase. They have moved their offices up the street to 5039 Connecticut Avenue, which gives them expanded capacity to hold classes during the day and in the evening. Also, Carr mentioned that his Little Red Fox customers have been pressing him for more seating capacity. This looks like a win-win for both.
A good coffeehouse serves good coffee, so the revamp includes a new espresso maker. Customers seeking a different kind of buzz can order beer and wine. Juices will also be served.
As for the food: Carr has developed a new menu of light fare, including vegan and gluten-free options. They hope this menu will attract customers to a light bite before or after the bookstore’s nightly book talks. And speaking of books, cookbooks are getting a starring role – they’re the source of the monthly specials.
For this month, inspiration comes from the cookbook Gjelina, featuring the recipes of this popular restaurant in Venice, California. The Den’s special is the restaurant’s eggplant caponata on toast.
When the first Politics and Prose café opened in 1993, it provided a social space this area had lacked. The cafe and its food evolved but its comfortable and welcoming atmosphere where people could meet, read, work was always maintained. Though this renovation presents the most marked change, with a special area along the windows for those tapping on computers, Graham particularly stressed that this is still a café, and he wants it used like it has always been used – welcoming writers, readers, members of the community to meet and enjoy the new larger space.
The new café’s hours will remain the same as the old: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m to 8 p.m. on Sunday. They plan to continue open mic night and showcase the work of local artists. And while the cafe will be open for business all day Thursday, the owners are marking the official opening with a happy hour that evening from 5 to 8 p.m.