Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers, Washington, DC

Wherever I go, I always try to find the farm-to-table restaurants—in fact, my annual top 10 farm-to-table restaurant list is coming up in November! So I had to check out Founding Farmers in Washington this past weekend. The idea is appealing: a casual, family restaurant that’s supplied and owned by a collective of American family farmers.

The first sign that something was unusual about the place was that on Open Table (a website where you can make online reservations), Founding Farmers was listed as the most booked restaurant but didn’t make it onto any of the “good food” lists. The second thing was that the concierge at the hotel mentioned that the restaurant got some negative reviews, but he liked it anyway (although, he confessed, the staff there always tries to impress him). He was able to get us a table, for which I am very grateful.

I realize I am not the average restaurant-reviewer type—in fact, I was immediately put at ease by all the loud noise, since I didn’t have to worry about shouting at my 3-year-old to “STOP licking the table and DO NOT rub your food on the wall and then put it in your mouth, for Lord’s sake!” And also, “Do not put your feet on the table and punch your sister.” Whew! So my first test of a good restaurant was passed with flying colors. There is a reason all those shopping-mall restaurants are loud, chaotic, and crowded.

The menu was very appealing. Lots to choose from. Even my husband was impressed. He’s a snob in reverse. If a restaurant is too fancy, he hates it before he’s even tasted anything, and can’t enjoy something even if it is really good. He’s a good eater, just hard to please. I over-ordered, of course—my excuse being that since I am a blogger it was my duty to try as much food as I could, to share with my readers. So, I confess, by the time our entrées came, we were too stuffed to eat any more. And due to 3-year-old craziness, I didn’t even get to read the dessert menu.

But what I had was really good! Really, really good, in that casual, family-restaurant sort of way. But without the gross-out guilt factor that comes from thinking about how factory-farmed food is produced. We ordered the mini-cheeseburgers, which were totally yummy (fries were awesome, too). The New England clam chowder was fantastic. The salads were OK. They got the wrong dressing on mine (blue cheese—which I just can’t eat). I have to admit the main course was fairly generic and did not live up to my expectation; I had the rotisserie chicken, and the skin was NOT crispy. But the highlight was a “flatbread,” which was really just a superfresh piece of home-baked bread, spread with ricotta cheese, salami, and a light pesto… It was both delicious and memorable. One of the ways I judge a restaurant’s worth is whether or not there was something I can take home and make myself, or can figure out how to make just from tasting. Something I want to make because it tasted so good and is so unexpected or different. That flatbread was it. Bread with ricotta, salami, and pesto.

So, while Founding Farmers might not be on a par with some of the best farm-to-table restaurants I’ve been to, it’s a model worth replicating around the country. I would much rather go to a place like it once or twice a week with the whole family, knowing I was supporting organic family farmers with my choices, than eat anywhere else (other than home). And the giant crowd of people waiting and trying to book tables must agree.

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10 Responses to Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers, Washington, DC

  1. TH October 16, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    Laughing out loud at the reality of children in a restaurant – have been there myself many times!

  2. Donna in DE October 16, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    I try to stay away from family style restaurants because of my husband, an old-school European with sensitive ears and can’t stand loud noise, people talking loud in restaurants and crying, screaming children. It seems to me that all of the restaurants that I have ever been to in Europe(and there have been MANY over the years) no matter the type, people talk quietly with each other, even the children were/are well behaved, or they are not there at all.

    I only rememeber one case of loudness in a fancy European restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, but the four of them were drunk and I believe they were told to leave after a short while. When I have frequented restaurants in Europe that had Americans with their kids eating there, the children behaved badly, crying, screaming, playing with their and each other’s food, spitting and generally messing up the table.

    So, I’ll try your farm to table restaurant when I go to D.C. The noise doesn’t bother me so much. I’m only concerned about what I am eating and if it’s worth eating. Leaving the husband behind, of course.

  3. Pat Beichler October 17, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    Maybe you need to send your kids to my son and daughter-in-laws Beichler Boot Camp. From the time they sit up they are well mannered. Both parents have perfected looks that can kill. I have sat in church with all 10 of their children ranging in age at the time from 3 to 17 for an hour and a half and not one moved in their seat or made any noise. What a joy. I love peace and quiet and enjoying the beauty of Gods creation whether a church, a restaurant or the beautiful outdoors so will not be going to Founding Farmers Restaurant even though I highly support farm to table.

  4. Maria (farm country kitchen) October 17, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    I have had two perfectly behaved children who were managed primarily by “the look.” I have to admit my third is a total hoyden. Although I am much older and busier and more tired that I was with the others…

  5. Pat Beichler October 17, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Have you tried duct tape?

  6. Maria (farm country kitchen) October 17, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    HA! That is the best laugh I’ve had all WEEK! Thanks Pat. Duct tape is my husbands favorite accessory.

  7. Amanda October 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    Everyone was always amazed at how well-behaved my son was. We even called him the little man. Then he turned three and all hell broke loose! I might try the duct tape and I’ll definitely try Founding Farmers. With all the popularity of Olive Gardens, Red Robins, Applebees, and any number of other awful restaurants, we need more free-range, middle-of-the-road, family-friendly (American or otherwise) eateries. Thanks for the review, Maria.

  8. FTT October 23, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Founding Farmers is a joke in regards to its farm-to-table program.. just proof that most people do judge a book by its cover (or name). If you want restaurants that are truly dedicated to local, sustainable farms in the DC area you have to check out Mie N Yu, Zola, Potenza and Harry’s Tap Room.

  9. bets November 2, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    Why is it that we equate silence in children with good behavior? I never wanted my child to be a “little adult”. That having been said, we always carried crackers with us (in case the food took too long), crayons and paper, and when he got a little older, played a lot of hangman while in restaurants. It is unreasonable, and in my opinion, unhealthy to expect children to behave like adults. Keep them occupied with age appropriate things!!!!

  10. Carlee June 22, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Hey, that’s poweurfl. Thanks for the news.

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