Busboys and Poets will open its ninth and largest restaurant Oct. 10 in Columbia.
The popular chain, which started in Washington, D.C., in 2005 and has since expanded throughout the region and into Baltimore earlier this year, features a full-service restaurant, bar and bookstore and is known for hosting a variety of events, from open mic nights to poetry readings, author talks and book signings.
“We’re not just a restaurant; we’re a cultural hub,” owner Andy Shallal said. “We use the space as a way to introduce people to things they didn’t know.”
The two-story restaurant at 6251 Mango Tree Road is more than 10,000 square feet and features both an outdoor patio on the first floor and a large covered deck on the second floor. The chain’s special events will be held on a stage in a large room, complete with its own bar, on the second floor, which also features a smaller board room. Between the outdoor and indoor areas, the restaurant can accommodate close to 700 people.
“We’ve never had an outdoor deck or terraces before,” Shallal said. “We’ve had a second floor but to not to this extent.”
Shallal, who lives in Washington, has several friends in Columbia who urged him to open in the area. After meeting with members of the Howard Hughes Corporation and hearing about plans for the Merriweather District, a mix of retail, offices, restaurants, apartments and parkland, Shallal was swayed.
“To create a sense of place in a new development is always dicey,” Shallal said. “Howard Hughes, they really get it. There are a lot of events here. We draw from all the small towns around here: Ellicott City, Clarksville, Laurel.”
Plans to open in the area were well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Shallal said. The chain was able to adapt and push through, he said, and he is confident in the new location.
“COVID will be history at some point,” Shallal said. “We are battle-hardened. Not only us, but our customers are used to changes and pushing on.”
On Wednesday, Shallal was working on another unique attraction at each restaurant: a unique mural he creates at each of his locations. Columbia’s mural is titled “I Dream A World,” after the Langston Hughes poem, and features many of the various artists, writers and poets who have passed through Shallal’s other restaurants.
“Everyone up there has been to Busboys and Poets,” Shallal said as he gazed up at the pictures he had hand-cut and pasted to the walls. “It is really cool.”