In The Know

Café Bonaparte: at home In Georgetown

March 23, 2011

In July 2003, the Popal family launched Café Bonaparte, one of Washington’s most popular and beloved Parisian coffeeshop/creperies and the first of their two successful French-themed restaurants in the nation’s capital.   The Café was the brainchild of siblings Omar, Mustafa, and Fatima Popal, who sought to bring a bit of Paris to the their newfound home in America.

(Photo by: Cafe Bonaparte)

The irony of the story is that the Popal family has no roots in France.  In fact, they like to joke that they are from “slightly east of Paris … Kabul, Afghanistan to be exact!”  Like their Afghan ancestors, the family has demonstrated a keen entrepreneurial spirit that has fostered many successful businesses across different continents.  The family immigrated to the United States in 1987, fleeing the horrors of war in Afghanistan and a life of increased uncertainty in the Middle East (the images of today’s events are stark reminders.)  Like many Afghans arriving in the United States, they settled in Northern Virginia, home to the largest Afghan-American community in America.  Zubair Popal, the head of the clan, was in the hotel industry for over 15 years, helping to launch and manage several Inter-Continental Hotels in Asia and the Middle East.  He, perhaps, can be credited for planting the seeds of hospitality in the family.

Bonaparte’s creation and launch represent true entrepreneurial spirit and the American dream where hard work, dedication, and creativity continue to pay off for the Popal family.  One day, the family paid a visit to a property for lease at 1522 Wisconsin Avenue and fell in love with the quaint spot and its very European exterior.  They went to work converting the space into the charming Parisian café that we see today, always bustling with visitors from near and far.  Bonaparte’s delicious (and now famous) crepes continue to be the main draw for thousands of visitors who have ventured into its cozy interior.  The diverse clientele represent a snapshot of Washington’s cosmopolitan identity and have also included some famous faces like Robert Duvall, Helen Mirren, Rachel MacAdams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jane Seymour, Paula Abdul, Mrs. Biden, Senator Al Franken, and others. 

(Photo by: Cafe Bonaperte)

On any given day, you can walk in and find the place buzzing with conversation and energy.  The cozy interior whisks you to Paris (confirmed by visiting Parisians nonetheless!)  and the delightful menu reads like a travel book with crepes named after many popular European destinations.  The café’s most popular table is “number 2” situated at the very front facing the large window looking out on Wisconsin Avenue---the perfect spot for people watching on a busy weekend.   The vibrant interior colors are a wonderful contrast to the black wooden furniture that play off one another in warmth and intimacy (24” tables are truly European!).

In addition to its extensive and popular crepe menu, Bonaparte also features award-winning espressos and coffees (voted “best espresso” in DC in 2006) and a full dinner menu of classic bistro fare.  Weekend brunches are the busiest for the café as crowds can often be seen spilling onto the sidewalks under the inviting red awning.

(Photo by: Cafe Bonaperte)

Like a true family business, the Popal family remains intimately involved with the operations after nearly eight years.  Shamim Popal, the matriarch, is the quality control queen of the operation and ensures that every dish and recipe is up to standard.  Zubair Popal handles the finances and keeps the ship heading in the right direction.  Omar and Fatima run the operation, working to ensure that the service and ambiance are in harmony.  Their older brother, Mustafa, when not traveling the world on his day-job, lends a helping hand (usually by naming menu items or tinkering with the music!). 

Bonaparte’s success story is a validation of the American Dream for one very dedicated and talented immigrant family who have laid down roots in the city they love and call home.   Plans are underway for future expansions (the family opened Bonaparte’s sister bistro in Adams Morgan, Napoleon, in 2007).  But for now, they eagerly await the arrival one day (fingers crossed) of President Obama and the first family, who we’re told have a sweet tooth and a love of Nutella chocolate! 

Cafe Bonaparte is at 1522 Wisconsin Avenue. Tel: 202.338.8830


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Spring Shows at Susan Calloway's Fine Art Gallery

March 17, 2011

If you’ve seen fine art in Georgetown recently, chances are it came from Susan Calloway Fine Arts, which has furnished the Washington, D.C. area with a superb collection of contemporary and antique art for nearly two decades. Located in the Book Hill neighborhood of Georgetown since 1993, the airy, two-story gallery features an always-changing, salon-style installation on the lower level and rotating contemporary shows on the upper level.

Inside the gallery (Photo by: Susan Calloway) Inside the gallery

Maintaining a particular focus on fineness and beauty, the gallery represents both emerging and established local, national, and international artists and presents a carefully curated selection of nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European oil paintings.

"Portrait of a Lady" by Henry Caro-Delvaille (Photo by: Susan Calloway) "Portrait of a Lady" by Henry Caro-Delvaille

Spring promises to be an exciting season at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, as they look forward to hosting several shows and unique events from March to May. Chesapeake Color, a special show and sale of works by abstract-realist painter Stephen Day to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will be on view March 16-26, with a reception on the evening of Friday, March 18th.

Pierre Jacquelin (Photo by: Susan Calloway) Pierre Jacquelin

A hint of France will be in the

air on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 30th, as the gallery presents a show of fine contemporary French art, including works on paper by Daniel Airam, Pierre Jacquelin, and Jean-Michel Matthieux-Marie.

On the evening of May 6th, the gallery will host an opening reception for popular, local plein-air painter Ed Cooper, whose solo show will be on view through early June.

In addition to maintaining a thrivi

Ed Cooper (Photo by: Susan Calloway) Ed Cooper
ng gallery space, during the past year, Susan Calloway Fine Arts has also expanded into additional venues in Georgetown. The gallery curates quarterly rotating shows at furniture designer Thos. Moser’s Georgetown showroom, on the corner of 33rd and M Street NW. On view through the end of March are Lamar Briggs’ lyrical abstract canvases, and from April through June, Rodgers Naylor’s light-filled
Gary Conway's "Fifty-six Views: View 29" in Citronelle's private dining room (Photo by: Susan Calloway) Gary Conway's "Fifty-six Views: View 29" in Citronelle's private dining room
street scenes and slices of life will be on view. Also see the gallery’s work in the private dining rooms in Citronelle, at 30th and M Street NW, where Gary Carmody Conway’s gorgeous views of his California vineyard complement Michel Richard’s fine cuisine. 

Susan Calloway Fine Arts also provides art consulting services for business and residential clients and has extensive experience working with the architecture and design trades. The gallery always welcomes new collaborations along these lines. Susan Calloway also specializes in conservation framing using archival-quality materials and techniques, and in traditional French mat decoration. Dealing with fine art for nearly twenty years has led Susan Calloway to develop a highly trained eye for designing beautiful framing treatments for both contemporary and antique art.

Visit Susan Calloway Fine Arts at 1643 Wisconsin Avenue or T 202.965.4601. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10-5, and Sunday and Monday by appointment.

Susan Calloway Fine Arts Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue (Photo by: Susan Calloway) Susan Calloway Fine Arts Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue


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