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Scene: a Capital Cafe

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The suits have their posh restaurants, the preppies have their pubs and the generally caffeine-needy can find solace in chrome-plated Starbucks cafes.But for Washington's arty types -- and a number of denim-clad students,...

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The suits have their posh restaurants, the preppies have their pubs and the generally caffeine-needy can find solace in chrome-plated Starbucks cafes.

But for Washington's arty types -- and a number of denim-clad students, full-time mothers and psychiatrists from nearby "shrink row" -- there's only one destination: the Politics and Prose bookstore and coffeehouse on northern Connecticut Avenue.

Local author Howard Norman said he "was walking the streets" until the 10-year-old Politics and Prose opened its basement cafe two years ago. Now Norman, whose soon-to-be-released novel "Bird Artist" is getting rave reviews, chooses from the menu of grilled vegetable sandwiches, lemon bars and various coffees about three times a week. "You work all morning and this is the reward," he says.

P and P's literary fare runs to the high brow -- no magazines, but plenty of literary journals such as Granta. The store waged a major campaign to squelch last year's top seller, "Bridges of Madison County," but failed. "We did everything we could to stop it, including voicing our disdain for the book," said co-owner Barbara Meade. "But it didn't work."