Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers

Deviled eggs.   Shrimp.  Tall glasses of iced tea.  Sounds like summer, no?  Makes you think of sitting on a picnic bench, fireflies flitting around, smoke from the grill scenting the hot, summer air. 

Or, a delicious dinner at Founding Farmers, a new-ish dining venue on the DC restaurant scene.  

The restaurant, owned by a collection of family farmers (over 40,000, I believe the waitress told us?), is an eco-friendly hot spot in Foggy Bottom where “where barnyard chic meets industrial garage.”  You walk into the restaurant and are welcomed by warm, weathered wood accents, a baker’s rack lined with jars of corn on the cob, green beans, and other seasonal vegetables, and a friendly host staff.

Let’s talk about atmosphere first.  It’s loud.  Really loud.  This is due to the people.  And the music.  And, the night I was there (with two great pals), numerous (we counted at least four) broken dishes. 

Now, on to the food.  The menu is extensive.  More choices than your average restaurant but less than Cheesecake Factory (ew).   The appetizer list had more choices that we wanted than that we did not.  Our first choice was fried green tomatoes.  In true Southern fashion, these tomatoes were impeccably coated and fried; the coating was crisp and delicious and not overpowering in the least.  The tomatoes came accompanied by a smooth herbed goat cheese [that, had it been in a glass, I would have gladly drank] and a tartar sauce [eh].  As I told the manager when she stopped by to check on us, “you could’ve just given me the breading and the goat cheese and I would’ve been happy.”  I?  Am such a fat kid.

Our next selection was a no brainer:  the chef’s popcorn of the day.  Popcorn of the day!  How could you not?  Especially when it was $2!!  The flavor of the day was spicy barbecue.  Honestly, it could’ve come unflavored.  I tasted neither spice nor barbecue, and neither did either of my companions.  This did not, however, keep us from munching on it throughout the meal. It was definitely a different and playful option and one that seemed pretty popular. 

Our last appetizer was also a no-brainer–at least for two of us.  The deviled eggs!  We love deviled eggs!  There were two choices:  classic or combination (with Maine lobster, Gulf crab, and salmon).  As deviled egg purists, we went for the classic.  At $4 for eight halves, this was quite an appetizer deal.  They were tasty but not delicious like the deviled eggs at Jackson’s (where the secret ingredients, I have learned, are jicama and watermelon rind).   At FF, the filling had an unexpected twist of diced egg white.  While interesting, it just added to the bland of the selection.  We may have been better off ordering the Bacon Lollis (Candied bacon?  Yes, please!) or skillet corn bread (which looked to be rather popular, based on the tables surrounding us). 

On to the entrees.  No surprise, I continued with the Southern theme I started with my apps and beverage (sinfully sweet iced tea) and went with the pan fried chicken.  And waffles.  And macaroni and cheese.  And, if that weren’t enough, corn on the cob grilled with mayonaisse and parmesan cheese (a la Paula Deen).  My very large plate included a “creamer” of maple syrup and one of white gravy.  While the chicken was nothing to write home about, the mac and cheese was fantastic.  Rigatoni, coated in just the right amount of creamy cheddar cheese.  Al dente and the only thing on my plate I ate in its entirety.  The waffles, too, were amazing.  Drenched in butter, the Belgian waffle was fluffy yet crisp and something that all three of us sampled (and loved).  And, while the corn on the cob should have been delicious, considering the season, it was the least appetizing item on my plate.  The kernels were very small and without flavor and the addition of more fat and calories was just too much, considering all the rest of the flavors (and, we all know I’m generally not one to complain about such things).  The overall presentation, though, was delectable. 

One of my friends ordered the shrimp and grits.  The entree came with a generous portion of fresh shrimp atop a mini mountain of grits that, by the amount that remained on her plate, couldn’t have been that phenomenal.  They did not appear to be as creamy as the grits to which I am accustomed (or as the menu promised), but the rest of the plate made up for it.   The white Gulf shrimp were sauteed and in light sherry tomato broth and there were cherry tomato halves and other vegetables in the mix.

The last entree selection was the macaroni with beef ragu.  How could you go wrong with this?  Seriously, only by having eyes bigger than your stomach.  The portion was more than generous.  And, the ragu itself was not what any of us expected.  Instead of being made with ground beef, the beef was more of a brisket.  The homemade pasta was delicious and cooked to perfection.  The non-traditional sauce was definitely a pleasant surprise, filled with flavors such as cinnamon and cumin. 

And now, on to dessert!  The dessert menu was extensive as well.  While red velvet cake usually calls out my name (and, lbh, homemade cream cheese frosting screams it), the presence of yellow cake with chocolate frosting (my absolute favorite combination–a biracial cake, as my cousin Krissy likes to call it) left me no other option.  And what a good option it was.  The chocolate frosting was cream cheese based!  The tang of the icing combined fabulously with the “plain” flavor of the yellow butter cake.  Our larger than life slice came with homemade chocolate ice cream…which ended up in a brown pool of coldness on our plate.  The second dessert we tried was boring in the sense that it was vanilla ice cream but amazing in the sense that it was homemade and delicious.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that make us the happiest.

All in all, this was a fabulous dining experience.  Before we knew it, three hours and fifteen minutes had passed.  The food and the company were great and we all decided that we definitely need to go back–there were so many menu options left untasted.  Mark my words:  now that I’ve been there, Mr. President and his dining companions will make their way there shortly.  Especially since it’s just four blocks from their house.

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