Eve Fairbanks has an interesting field note in the New Republic on the hot new Washington hangout for the Obama left. Busboys and Poets is a café in the black bourgeois section of D.C. It draws anti-war types of all ethnicities. Since the coming of the new Democratic administration it has drawn some of the left edge of those in power. It is probably important that the owner and presiding force is an Iraqi, who comes from outside the often poisonous racial politics of the District.
What struck me about this story, as a student of third places in general and coffee houses in particular, is that Busboys and Poets seems to have achieved what most third places only dream of: to be genuinely integrated. It is notoriously difficult to create a black coffee house. I have been to only one, which serves the Fisk University community. Black third places tend to be either churches or bars, with little overlap. Busboys and Poets is not a pure coffee house, but a café - it not only serves more food than a normal coffee house does, but also alcohol.
Still, Busboys and Poets provides such a model of the best of integrated America that even the Bush State Department brought foreigners there, rather than to the preppy bars in Georgetown favored by the young Bushies. Come on, honey-colored nation. Have a mocha.