A day after Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema pounded Founding Farmers with a zero-stars review, the popular mini-chain chose not to defend what he called its “unpleasantly mouth-puckering” pickles, the mushroom loaf that led him “to believe salt must be a vegetable,” or the “swamp posing as shrimp and grits.”
No, Founding Farmers went with a defense familiar to anyone who’s frequently challenged on the factual basis of their opinions: “In regards to the Washington Post review, everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” the local venture wrote on Facebook.
This is a red herring defense, a way to distract from Sietsema’s scathing and well-founded criticisms of the Foggy Bottom location (he visited at least six times before writing his review) without addressing them. It’s entirely possible to be a popular restaurant that makes critics throw up their hands in disbelief.
DC-area restaurants like Lauriol Plaza and Chef Geoff’s have become institutions with this model: People go because the portions are large, because the prices are good, because the menu is accessible. They go because they don’t give a flying crap about what Tom Sietsema thinks of its “cloying balsamic reduction.”
This is how Founding Farmers fits into the area’s food scene, and many of the comments on its response underline the point: One Californian says he and his wife had a great time eating breakfast at the Foggy Bottom location when visiting DC, and if they ever come back, they hope to find a “hotel near Founding Farmers just to make sure it’s in walking distance for breakfast.” Another says “We live in Illinois and can’t find anything that compares.” Another: “I cannot wait to be back in DC to dine with you again.” It’s a frequent presence on our polls of readers’ favorite spots.
There’s nothing wrong with being a restaurant with this kind of audience. If anything, Sietsema has helped them define their business model. Instead of posting weak defenses on Facebook, Founding Farmers should laminate Sietsema’s review and post it near the doors, so people can study it while they wait (and wait, and wait) for a table. Viewing the raucous crowds beyond the host station, they may even form their own opinions!