After a lot of teasing, spring has finally sprung, and with it returns our courage to leave our dorms, venturing outdoors for longer than ten minutes. The perfect weather this past weekend saw tourists and locals filling the streets, monuments, and restaurants of Washington, D.C. Right in the heart of Dupont, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe was no exception to this springtime flood.
The concept of this eatery combines the best of both worlds: a bookstore with a selection big enough to get lost in and a cafe and in back to grab a complementary meal. The cafe offers lunch, brunch, dinner, and even late-night munchies on the weekends.
However, the boutique-bookstore-meets-quaint-cafe idea is too good to be true. From its name alone, one imagines it to be a funky hipster kind of place, neatly decorated, with unique art pieces and eclectic furnishing, but in reality, the place simply screams “boring!”
The bookstore is a standard bookstore, shelves on shelves of books, but this isn’t the disappointing part of the experience. The cafe is what really struck as dull with the aesthetics of a fast food chain restaurant. This did no justice to the eatery’s interesting appeal as a bookstore cafe, and the interior’s lack of creative design deters the young crowds that would normally be drawn to such an establishment.
If one is lucky enough, there will be space to sit outside on the patio, which is on the 19th street sidewalk (opposite to the bookstore’s entrance on 1517 Connecticut Avenue) and does have a really pleasant view and atmosphere. However, keep in mind that the patio area is in the shade, so it will be quite chilly even at this time of the year.
Although Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is significantly deficient in aesthetic appeal, it does not fail in satisfying with its assorted menu and tasty dishes. As our party arrived in time for a late lunch, we found ourselves exploring their very wide ranging dinner menu. The latter offers small plates and “sharezies” such as Mini Crab Cakes ($12), Mac & Cheese ($9), and Catfish Fingers ($9), as well as a variety of tacos and sandwiches priced around $17 each. There is also a more elaborate array of dishes to choose from like Crab Cake Pasta ($21), Stuffed Rockfish ($21), Jamaican Curried Goat ($18) and Duck Ramen ($19).
Our order consisted of Cajun-style Fettuccine with shrimp and chicken ($19), Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli ($17) and Shrimp and Rice Grits ($19). Each of these dishes displayed the chef’s knowledge of spices and method. They impressed not only with their detailed preparation, but also with their exquisite taste. In this case, the strong technique of preparation proves to strengthen the taste.
With a lengthy desert menu, there are many opportunities to satisfy a sweet tooth at this establishment. If anything was going to overcome the mediocre ambiance and chilly seating, it is the Triple Chocolate Cake ($8.75) and Salted Caramel Vanilla Cake ($8.75) that we ordered. Both of these exquisite treats provide an intense rich and decadent finish to the meal. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is a great venue to drop by and satisfy your craving for something sweet, especially when you imagine what a sugary kick the Chocolate Nutella Torta ($8.75) must pack.
Even though the dishes were highly tasteful and elaborate, as well as very satisfying, the price-to-overall-experience ratio was definitely uneven. The ambiance of the venue was far from being up to par with the prices they charged for their dishes. It is possible to find places that offer meals for the same price but are able to offer an experience that goes beyond a purely savory meal.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe was not a meal to remember, neither was it one to forget. It was perhaps overpriced for the dining experience as a whole, but if you are just a foodie trying to get in on some flavorful dishes, then this might be a good place for you to try. However, if you are more of a dining connoisseur and looking for a more comprehensive experience that appeals to more than your sense of taste, there are definitely better options out there for you to explore.
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