Hidden Hangouts: Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

Serving lattes to the literati since 1976

BY DANA NICKEL, CO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Fourth Estate/Dana Nickel

The Dupont neighborhood in Washington, D.C. is home to many colorful works of art, historic buildings and other attractions that are perfect for a fun outing for college students. On one such outing, I stumbled across this little bookstore nestled within the heart of Washington’s Dupont neighborhood. The brightly-lit red neon sign practically shouted the shop’s name at me: “Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe.” 

“This place is like Dupont’s version of church,” was the description I got for this shop from a clerk restocking a shelf once I walked in. The interior feels familiar and comfortable, the walls were lined with wood-clad shelves that were fully stocked with all kinds of books, covering all sorts of topics. 

The store was packed with both tourists and Dupont natives, leaning against the shelves and flipping through pages of riveting prose. 

The back of the restaurant opens up to a dimly lit, full-service restaurant with lots of windows. According to my waiter, Kramerbooks was the first of its kind in Washington, D.C., opening its doors in 1976. The bookstore-to-cafe business model is used by other trendy cafes all over the city today, but none have withstood the test of time like Kramerbooks. 

According to Dupont residents, the shop is a landmark in its own right. Not only is it known as an excellent meet-up spot for friends and family, but the shop is also frequented by celebrities, artists, authors and politicians. Famous faces like Barack Obama, Toni Morrison, Margaret Chou and Monica Lewinsky have all frequented the shop. 

In addition to the wide variety of guests, Kramerbooks offers many different kinds of entertainment to go along with your shopping and dinner. Live music rings through the little shop’s interior on Wednesday to Saturday nights, and the store’s late hours make sure everyone can enjoy.

A nod to their dedication to customer service can be found in the late 1990s, when Kramerbooks was caught in the middle of a legal battle with Ken Starr over Monica Lewinsky’s book purchases. When the shop wouldn’t hand over her purchases, refusing to compromise their integrity, the ACLU stepped in to help and the shop ultimately won.

In addition to having something for everyone, Kramerbooks is accessible for Mason students without their own means of transportation! The shop is a short walk from the Q Street stop on the metro’s Red Line.