A hidden D.C. treasure, promulgated predominantly through word of mouth, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe has been serving D.C.’s literati and hipster communities as both a gathering place and a focal point of district culture since its opening in 1976. At the time, Kramerbooks was the first bookstore that doubled as a cafe, offering cappuccino, espresso and food. Today, it continues to stand proud as a sort of cultural landmark in Dupont.
Visitors will appreciate the bookstore’s sizable fiction section and the cafe’s large assortment of well-priced, delicious entrees coupled with the neighborhood’s own trademark quirky milieu. In addition, it offers a full-service bar and live entertainment at night from Wednesday to Saturday. Owing to its symbiotic relationship with the bookstore component, Kramerbooks & Afterwords stays open late every day and all night on the weekends, satisfying any late-night cravings a hungry Hoya may have on a Saturday night.
Coming in by the main entrance will get you to the middle of the bookstore, Kramerbooks, where you can peruse the assortment of books before heading to the back of the shelves to be seated in the punning cafe, Afterwords. The word “seated” may be a bit of a stretch here — more like “packaged”. Claustrophobes, beware: Kramer’s can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends, so avoid peak hours if you want the best this restaurant has to offer. Seating here is endangered enough as it is, but if you choose to ignore this caveat, come expecting to get to know the party sitting next to you extremely well by the time you finish your meal.
Kramer’s extensive menu reads like Tolstoy’s War and Peace: it is chock full of such a variety of entrees that it will probably take quite a while to decide on a single choice. To expedite the process, I offer my own recommendation: the lobster, asparagus and mascarpone ravioli. This dish was easily the highlight of my meal. After devouring my crab cake appetizer (which was perfectly good, although there are better to be found in the area), I had high hopes for my main entree. I was more than satisfied with what I received. The dish consisted of six large pieces of ravioli stuffed with chunks of lobster tail and mascarpone cheese and topped with chopped asparagus and a creamy mascarpone sauce. It was delicious and, by the time I was done, six pieces just did not seem like enough.
Kramer’s is known throughout the area for, among many other things, its selection of desserts. Locals often stop by just for a quick cup of coffee and dessert and to check their emails at the bar (a service which the restaurant offers gratis). In these regards, Kramerbooks truly shines; the desserts are fantastic. I ordered the red velvet cake and it was amazing. The heaping slice of cake came on a large plate drizzled with a raspberry syrup and a dollop of whipped cream. Neither too sweet nor too dry, the cake was a more-than-adequate justification for Kramer’s as a D.C. favorite for desserts.
While the food in the Afterwords cafe was very good, its bookstore counterpart is not to be neglected. With such a wide variety to choose from, Kramerbooks has a lot to offer, and it would be unfortunate to not spend a few minutes browsing the shelves either before or after your meal. All in all, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe offers the best of gourmet dining at very reasonable prices with all the quaint comfort of a bookstore cafe.