Review By: Elizabeth Walle –
Founding Farmers is quite the hot spot in downtown Washington DC–positioned right next to the White House, it’s a prime target for worn-out tourists and staffers alike. Opened in 2009, this casual restaurant’s motto is “true food and drink” which refers, I assume, to their farm-sourced products and farm-style cuisine, plus their commitment to sustainability. They strike the perfect political balance for a DC spot, and it can be a tussle to get a table. I wouldn’t recommend showing up without a reservation on the weekends—I walked by on a recent Sunday morning and watched overheated tourists wait in line and stare despondently at the menu they might never get to sample.
When you do get a table (and it’s certainly not impossible to do, just make a reservation or show up when it’s not in the thick of a rush), the first thing you’ll enjoy is the sleek but still cozy interior. On my first visit to Founding Farmers–my favorite visit, by the way–I went for breakfast. Their coffee is Intelligentsia, which I happen to love when I can find it outside of Los Angeles or Chicago. The rest of the breakfast menu is fairly large and definitely elevated “farm fresh.”
I ordered the Red Flannel Hash: two poached eggs with hollandaise over shredded leek hash browns, with pan roasted beets and goat cheese. This first time I had this dish it was perfection: filling but not overly so, cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of brown on the hash browns and the flavors balanced perfectly. The eggs, which too many breakfast places don’t seem to care about poaching correctly, were exactly how I like them—oozing but not watery—in short a great start to my day. I liked it so much I ordered it again when I returned to Founding Farmers on my next visit. Unfortunately the second time it was all over cooked: the eggs were harder, the hash was browner, and the flavors weren’t clear and delicate but salty and overdone. It was still good, but it wasn’t anything I would have felt compelled to order again.
I also tried the Stuffed French Toast “New Orleans Style.” It looked great: two cuboids of dark brown French toast arranged like building blocks on the plate. I had ordered it Bananas Foster style, so it came sprinkled with rum-sweet golden brown banana slices, which were perfectly fine. The French Toast itself was good too, but the vanilla pastry cream that constituted the stuffing was in my opinion far too plentiful: I’d rather have a mouthful of bread with a hint of sweet cream than a mouthful of pastry cream with a slight chewiness of bread. The red velvet pancakes are much better–rich and sweet but not too sweet.
On a third visit to Founding Farmers, I had lunch. I tried the “Low Country Shrimp and Grits” –flavorful but entirely too soup-y, the grits was drenched in sauce—and the “Farmer’s Daughter Burger” with blue cheese and bacon and balsamic onions. I don’t know what it was about the burger I didn’t really like–too much blue cheese perhaps, but I barely tasted the bacon, and the burger itself was succulent but somehow not very flavorful. It certainly wasn’t poor quality, but the flavors were less than exciting. The corn bread we ordered on the side was a bit too much like corn pudding for me, but the honey butter with which it was served, a steel cup with a layer of honey and a puff of butter on top, was delightful.
Overall, I would be glad to return to Founding Farmers again. The service is excellent and the environment is sleek yet cozy. Plus I’ve had some really good food. But it wasn’t always quite on the mark.
Make a reservation at Founding Farmers.