Despite reported musings from the owner of Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe that he would very much like to relocate the store, the Dupont institution isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, a couple months after a series of premature social media eulogies went live, Kramerbooks as D.C. knows it is being reincarnated.
Owner Steve Salis confirmed to Eater he is committed to keeping the bookstore at its original home for at least three more years — the minimum required by his lease — and as many as six years. He says he was touched by the outpouring of love that came out online, but he also needs to drag the 44-year-old business into the 21st century so it can meet a rent obligation that totals around $800,000 per year. So he’s shortening the name to “Kramers,” overhauling the attached cafe, and building a plant shop inside. A breakfast bar that separated the book store from the restaurant in the ’80s will eventually make a comeback, and Salis would like to put a barbershop on the second floor, too.
As opposed to the other established restaurants he owns, Ted’s Bulletin and Federalist Pig, Kramers is not looking to multiply.
“This was never meant to be a scaled business. This was meant to protect an iconic jewel,” says Salis, who bought the bookstore in 2016. He says he has “a great sense of stewardship in doing this. I’ve always had an aspiration of protecting and preserving Kramers.”
The first change to take place is rebranding Afterwords Cafe into All Day by Kramers, an American restaurant with a background in French technique. Chef Vincent Griffith, a pastry expert who came up with the whimsical croissants full of matcha tea cream or Reuben sandwich stuffings at the Sidekick bakery in Ballston, designed the menu.
Griffith’s came up in the restaurant industry through two lauded modernist places in Chicago, Charlie Trotter’s and Moto. At All Day, he’s leaning into a contemporary taste for vegetables with options like an avocado hummus, a hearty side of cauliflower adorned with buttermilk ranch and roasted cashews, and a vegetarian “Cali Dagwood” sandwich that stacks goat cheese, avocado, bibb lettuce, cucumber, and cherry pepper relish with a lemon buttermilk dressing. All Day’s veggie lasagna, made with mozzarella and a beer-braised marinara, will change depending on what produce is in season.
“It’s very very light. It’s very very fresh,” Griffith says of the menu.
Those changes are reflected in the glass-enclosed solarium, which has already been repainted from black to white will eventually be filled full of plants from the Little Leaf shop.
Taking a page from Ted’s, breakfast will be available all day. Options include a “custardy” brioche French toast with a base that includes Grand Marnier and Triple Sec. There are two French salads with a mustard vinaigrette: a salmon nicoise and a Lyonaisse with bacon and a poached egg. Entrees include steak frites topped with poblano butter, a mesquite chicken paillard, and a heavier Kramers throwback, the creamy fettucine New Orleans loaded with shrimp, chicken, and sauage. Peanut butter goober pie is another holdover, but now there’s also a buttered popcorn-flavored pot de creme.
French sodas, made with Itaberco syrups and either half and half or oat milk, include blueberry vanilla, banana coconut, or strawberry pomegranate. All come with the option to add a shot of liquor. Griffith says it’s a riff the Italian sodas he loves.
“It’s not far from an egg cream,” he says.
A new drink menu includes natural wines only, with by-the-glass options ranging from $7 for a French Chardonnay to $9 for an Austrian red made from St. Laurent and Zweigelt grapes.
Customers can order the All Day menu for takeout or delivery on Postmates — which is also delivering books — or make a reservation for limited indoor dining or outdoor seating in an expanded area on 19th Street NW. The Fedwich pop-up from Federalist Pig is also still operating out of the shop for now. Salis says he’s still deciding how long that will continue.