News & Politics

Bobos in Arlington?

Is the Village at Shirlington Bourgeois Bohemia?

Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Arlington County.

In a passage that reads as if a young, enterprising reporter headed out to interview Juan Ponce de León y Figueroa and realized he'd met his subject for drinks at the Fountain of Youth, Slate's Chris Beam profiled David Brooks for New York and found Bourgeois Bohemia along the way. And found it in Arlington, Va., to be exact. Beam writes:

We’re sitting at the Best Buns Bread Company in the Village at Shirlington, a sort of prefab town square in Arlington, Virginia, designed to be quaint and homey. The streets are fresh red brick. The lampposts are faux antique. The trees are evenly spaced. A color-coded map explains the area’s layout, like a mall. The neighborhood’s culinary diversity—Aladdin’s Eatery abuts Bonsai Restaurant abuts Guapo’s—is matched only by its patrons’ ethnic lack thereof. We are sipping coffees and munching on identical Ginger Crinkle cookies, when it occurs to me: I am in a David Brooks book. We are Bobos. This is Paradise.


The concept, and the portmanteau, of bourgeois and bohemianism in Brooks' 2000 book about educated, consumption-oriented cosmopolitan elites Bobos in Paradise helped make his reputation. It's true that the Village at Shirlington's got brick, fountains, a Busboys and Poets and a CakeLove (two terrific local examples of bourgie bohemianism). There's even a jazz series running on Thursday nights until July 19. But without a Starbucks or a Restoration Hardware, can Shirlington really be Bobo Eden? Is the existence of Le Village Marche really enough to up the Bobo Quotient? Or will Brooks and Beam just have to keep looking?

If they continue their quests for Paradise, I'd like to recommend the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville as a contender. There are enough brunch spots, funky antique shops, bookstores selling first-edition Freddy the Pig books, brick walks, and even a chalk board to keep even the most ardent Bobo set on self-expression.

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