Andy Shallal

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Andy Shallal
Andy Shallal.jpg
Personal details
Born (1955-03-21) March 21, 1955 (age 61)
Baghdad, Iraq
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Catholic University of America
Howard University

Anas "Andy" Shallal (Arabic: أنس شلال) (born March 21, 1955 in Baghdad, Iraq) is an Iraqi-American artist, activist and entrepreneur. He is best known as the proprietor of the Washington, DC area restaurant, bookstore, performance venue Busboys and Poets and local philanthropist. He is also well known for his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was a 2013 candidate for Mayor of Washington, D.C. [1]

Early life[edit]

Shallal moved to the United States with his family in 1966. His father was Ambassador of the Arab League, a position he held until Saddam Hussein seized power, after which they could not return. He graduated from Catholic University of America and later enrolled in Howard University medical school. Shallal worked as a researcher in medical immunology at the National Institutes of Health.[2]


With the experience gained from working for his father's restaurant, Shallal co-founded the Mediterranean-themed Skewers with older brother Tony, in 1987. He opened a spinoff, Cafe Luna at the same corner at 17th and P, and later Luna Grille on Connecticut Avenue south of Dupont Circle. In 2000 he opened Mimi's American Bistro, featuring servers who sing, dance and play the piano between serving diners. Shallal has since sold his interests in these restaurants.

Busboys and Poets[edit]

In September 2005, he opened Busboys and Poets at 14th and V, in the historic U Street neighborhood. The restaurant features a bookstore, performance space and a mural painted by Shallal. The restaurant was an instant success, embraced by the neighborhood and the progressive community, especially among activists opposed to the Iraq War. Busboys' clientele has included Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Cornel West, Naomi Klein, Ben Jealous, Michael Eric Dyson, Nikki Giovanni, Junot Diaz, Common, Moby, Larry King, Melissa Harris Perry, Angela Davis, Brittney Griner, Howard Dean, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Danny Glover, and others.

Shallal opened a second Busboys location in Arlington in July 2007, and he opened a third location in the D.C. at 5th & K NW in 2008. A fourth location opened in Hyattsville, Maryland, in summer 2011.[2] The next Busboys and Poets is slated to open Spring 2014 in Takoma with a local food market.[3]

Eatonville Restaurant[edit]

Eatonville Restaurant is a Southern-inspired restaurant that opened in 2009 by Andy Shallal, the founder of the restaurant Busboys and Poets.[4] It is located across the street from the Busboys and Poets restaurant in U Street Corridor, Washington, DC. Culture and history are an important part of the restaurant; it is named after and takes its concept from Eatonville, the hometown of Zora Neale Hurston, an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance.[4][5][6][7]

Eatonville clientele has included Michelle Obama, on several occasions, Clinton Portis, Alice Walker, Phylicia Rashād, Stevie Wonder, Tavis Smiley, Gabrielle Union and members of Zora Neale Hurston's family. The restaurant features a monthly Food and Folklore series that intertwines storytelling and food.


Shallal always wanted to use Hurston as an inspiration for the restaurant. In 2007, while talking about his plans for the restaurant, Shallal said: "I'd like to incorporate Zora Neale Hurston into the name. I like taking literary [authors] and using them as springboards."[8] He chose her because had studied the Harlem Renaissance during college, and wanted to use someone who lived during that period and had a connection to Washington.[9] Eatonville pays homage to Hurston through the murals, which were painted by a local artist.[6][10] Shallal said she "was the life of the party, so I wanted the space to look lively and gregarious. And she wrote a lot about the porch at Eatonville where the townspeople tell stories, so we put in an area [with rocking chairs] for people to have drinks."[9] According to Shallal, Carla Hall from Top Chef judged a "reality TV-style contest" to select Eatonville Restaurant's chef.[9]

Amy Cavanaugh in the Decider: DC writes "With this spring's opening of Eatonville, his Zora Neale Hurston-themed restaurant, Andy Shallal is trying to mend a decades-old literary rift between the author and her contemporary, Langston Hughes, whom Shallal's Busboys And Poets chain is named in honor of. The two writers tried to collaborate on a play, Mule Bone, but things went sour: “They fought over copyright issues, but I think they wanted to be friends,” says Shallal. Since the restaurants are across the street from each other, Shallal sees it as a chance to reunite the two writers." [11]

Shallal's Green Initiatives[edit]

"Busboys and Poets is a popular green restaurant: it has plenty of vegan alternatives and organic beer and wines on its menu, and uses recyclable products and wind energy in its operations. But the venue is so much more than a restaurant. It houses a fair trade market and bookstore and a space for music shows and poetry slams, and frequently displays local artists’ works." "'If you could change one thing about the green business landscape right now, what would it be'? Make it less elitist and more accessible to ordinary citizens. Right now green is synonymous with costly. This needs to change. It should be more cost effective to operate a green business, yet green businesses face higher costs."[12]

Busboys and Poets was awarded one of the first "REAL" restaurants by the United States Healthful Food Council. REAL (Restautant Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership) Certification is a program of the USHFC to help connect people who want healthful and sustainable food and beverages with the restaurants that provide them.[13]

Busboys and Poets and Eatonville Restaurant are members of the American Sustainable Business Council.

Shallal is one of the co-founders of Think Local First Washington, DC.


The Washington Examiner's Jeff Dufour said the murals in the restaurant "can appear a bit cacophonous to the eye, but up close, some of the work is beautiful, and delightfully in keeping with Shallal's southern theme."[6] Dufour added: "Executive Chef Rusty Holman hews closely to soul food's greatest hits. You'll find respectable versions of gumbo, etoufée and pecan-crusted trout. Fried chicken breast is crispy and juicy, and the fried green tomatoes boast goat cheese and corn salsa. The execution is still uneven in some spots. The right half of a BBQ-glazed mahi mahi emerged perfectly done; the left side was unforgivably overcooked. A cheddar tart appetizer betrayed no cheddar flavor, nor much flavor from the roasted tomatoes that topped it. A much better choice is the catfish, which was dusted in cornmeal before being perfectly fried."[6]

Elana Schor of The Hill wrote: "From the service to the cuisine, Eatonville reflects the warmth and appreciative pace that made its namesake town an essential part of Hurston’s character. She was so enamored of Eatonville that she (falsely) claimed it as her birthplace — and after a few visits to Shallal’s laid-back boîte, you may become similarly attached. Eatonville’s charm rests in its cautious embrace of Southern staples. The usual suspects are represented on the menu, but most have been liberated from the oozing oil and tongue-dulling over-cooking with which they’re often associated."[14]


Shallal was honored at The DC Vote Champions of Democracy Awards Dinner on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 for advocating for full, equal voting rights for DC.[citation needed]

Shallal has received numerous awards including the Mayor’s Arts Award, the Mayor’s Environmental Award, United Nations Human Rights Community Award, as well as leadership awards in employment and sustainable business practices. He was also named Man of the Year by the Washington Peace Center.[citation needed]

He was named "Democracy's Restaurateur" by Ralph Nader in a Washington Post article by David Montgomery.[15]


Shallal has founded or co-founded several peace movement organizations and holds leadership positions in numerous others. Among them are Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, created prior to the 2003 invasion, and The Peace Cafe, which seeks to promote Arab-Jewish dialogue. At 800 members it is the largest such group in the Washington, DC area. Shallal is a Peace Fellow with Seeds of Peace, spokesperson for Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) and at one point was chair of the board of trustees for Abraham's Vision, a conflict transformation organization working with Muslims, Jews, Palestinians, and Israelis. Shallal is a recipient of the United Nations Human Rights Community Award and has been named Man of the Year by the Washington Peace Center.

In 2005, Shallal spoke at the counter-inaugural of President George W. Bush held at Malcolm X Park. Later that year, he visited and provided catering at Sheehan's Camp Casey protest in Crawford, Texas.[16] Sheehan later participated in an Impeachment Forum sponsored by Democracy Rising at the U Street Busboys location.

He is a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst for the left-leaning think tank Institute for Policy Studies and current board member serving as Treasurer.[17]

In 2010, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington gave an award to Shallal for his support of the local arts community.[18]

On October 12, 2010, Shallal was awarded the Champions of Democracy Award by DCVote for his activism in support of voting rights for the people of the District of Columbia.

Shallal is a member of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) which works to help improve wages and working conditions for restaurant workers.

Shallal also drew an original mural highlighting the struggle to end “Taxation without Representation” that was auctioned off at the gala to benefit DC Vote. “When Iraq got its voting rights,” Shallal said ” I was able to vote in Iraq. I was surprised that I was able to vote in a representative government while I can’t in my own city where I live today.”


Shallal painted the mural at the headquarters of the Institute for Policy Studies on 16th street NW, which depicts the story of IPS and social movements in which it has been involved. The mural is several hundred square feet and wraps around a 50-seat, square meeting room. Featured in the mural are the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Benjamin Spock and the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Also included are Chilean diplomat and IPS fellow Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffitt, who were killed by a car bomb on Embassy Row in 1976. The mural depicts former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet weeping into a handkerchief. As an IPS board member, Shallal painted the mural as a gift to the Institute.

Shallal painted the civil rights movement-themed mural at Busboys and Poets, called Peace in Struggle Wall. He refuses to sign the civil rights mural at Busboys, saying this would be a "final gesture" that would preclude him from making revisions later.[19] All of the Busboys and Poets locations feature an original mural by Shallal.

Shallal's most recent mural, created in August 2013, is at the new Anthony Bowen YMCA, where he is a Board member. The mural honors the legacy of the U St Corridor and Anthony Bowen.

Mayoral Campaign 2014[edit]

On November 8, 2013 he formally announced his candidacy for Mayor of Washington, DC, 2014.[1] Andy has been referred to as the Bill de Blasio of D.C. mayoral candidates [20] and was endorsed by actor Danny Glover and writers George Pelecanos and Barbara Ehrenreich.[21] He finished fifth with 2,320 votes or 3.18% of the total.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Shallal lives in Washington, DC with wife Marjan and his daughters Laela and Nina. Both Laela and Nina attended public high schools and public universities.


  1. ^ a b Andy Shallal is running for D.C. mayor, Mike Debonis, Washington Post, November 8, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Shallal to launch third Busboys, a new concept, Erin Killian, Washington Business Journal, July 13, 2007.
  3. ^ [1], WTOP, Miami Herald, August 18, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Andy Shallal - Restaurateur, Busboys and Poets". Washington Business Journal. April 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  5. ^ Gaynair, Gillian (March 25, 2008). "Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal to open new D.C. eatery Eatonville". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d Dufour, Jeff (June 23, 2009). "Eatonville brims with culture, history and Southern comfort food". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  7. ^ Carman, Tim (November 19, 2008). "Andy Shallal's Eatonville to Symbolically Reunite Hughes and Hurston". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  8. ^ Killian, Erin (July 13, 2007). "Shallal to launch third Busboys, a new concept". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  9. ^ a b c O'Steen, Danielle (June 18, 2009). "Cooking by the Books: Andy Shallal of Eatonville". Express Night Out. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  10. ^ "Exploring Eatonville". Zagat Survey. April 20, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  11. ^ Cavanaugh, Amy (July 11, 2009). "Food and Drink: Andy Shallal's Eatonville". Decided DC. "The Onion". Archived from the original on 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Schor, Elana (July 9, 2009). "Hurston's hushpuppies". The Hill. Retrieved 2009-07-10. [dead link]
  15. ^ Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets, is ‘democracy’s restaurateur’, David Montgomery, The Washington Post, December 8, 2011.
  16. ^ War mother and supporters are settling in for a long siege Archived December 26, 2005, at the Wayback Machine., Carlos Guerra, San Antonio Express-News, August 16, 2005.
  17. ^ Institute for Policy Studies: Trustees Archived March 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.,, accessed March 9, 2008.
  18. ^ Mizell, Vanessa (May 17, 2010). "Cultural alliance honors Busboys and Poets owner". The Washington Post. 
  19. ^ The Muralist, David Montgomery, Washington Post, May 1, 2006.
  20. ^[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Sommer, Will (January 14, 2014). "George Pelecanos: Vote Shallal!". The Washington City Paper. 
  22. ^ "DC Primary Election Results". WUSA. April 2, 2014. 

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