An Early Look at Founding Farmers
Reviewed By Kate Nerenberg
Comments () | Published November 14, 2008
Happy Hour

Founding Farmers
Address: 1924 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202-822-8783
Neighborhood: Foggy Bottom/West End, Downtown
Cuisines: An example of a traditional Southern meal is deep fried chicken, field peas, turnip greens, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, pecan and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers)., Modern, Breakfast, American
Opening Hours: Open for breakfast Monday through Friday 8 to 11. Open for lunch and dinner Monday and Tuesday 11 AM to 10 PM; Wednesday and Thursday 11 AM to midnight; Friday and Saturday 2 PM to midnight; Sunday 2 to 10 PM. Open for brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to
Nearby Metro Stops: Farragut West, Foggy Bottom-GWU
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Upscale Casual
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Heirloom-pimiento-cheese puffs; sliders; 17-vegetable salad; chicken pot pie; beef stroganoff; poached eggs with Edwards ham; scrambled eggs with mushrooms and asparagus.
Price Details: Breakfast entrées $6 to $14; lunch and dinner starters $2 to $18, entrées $9 to $42 (for a New York strip steak).

Independent restaurants usually have multiple owners. But 40,000? That’s how many people are behind downtown DC’s new Founding Farmers. The owners are all members of the North Dakota Farmer’s Union, the same group that opened Agraria in Georgetown two years ago.  

The union spent $6 million on the space to create a “modern farmhouse” feel, complete with “silo-shaped” booths. But the two-story, 8,500 square-foot restaurant feels more like a Philippe Starck interpretation of a cavernous barn: Those sleek, circular booths feel more isolated than homespun, especially when set next to cold concrete pillars. Decorative jars of pickled vegetables are lit eerily from below and sit on minimalist steel-and-glass shelving.  Sure, doors and ladders from an old West Virginia barn decorate the first floor, but the contemporary slickness overwhelms the rustic details.

The union charged veteran Atlanta chef Graham Duncan with turning their farm-sourced products into modern-rustic dishes, and his lengthy menu promises familiar comfort food—chicken pot pie, meatloaf, chips and dip—and more whimsical offerings like kettle-corn and bacon lollipops. But on our early visit, the menu descriptions sounded better than what was on the plate. Those bacon “lollies” turned out to be rectangle-cut strips threaded on toothpicks, and the “classic filling” in the deviled eggs was a finely diced egg salad, without the traditional mustard or paprika. Portions are as colossal as the space: Our carrot cake could have fed a small family.

The restaurant does deliver when it comes to environmental friendliness. It’s the first restaurant in DC to meet the LEED Gold Standard design criteria, and the Green Restaurant Association deemed it a Certified Green Restaurant. According to Dan Simons, one of the union’s local representatives, fryer grease is converted into bio-fuel, half of the energy comes from alternative sources like wind power, and the floorboards are made from salvaged wood. Unlike most restaurants, the kitchen staff separates recyclable waste from compostable waste.  

“Our principles continue to raise the bar,” says Simons of the restaurant’s commitment to the environment.  Let’s hope the food follows suit.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/14/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Restaurant Reviews