1924 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
We spent a year listening to all the accolades being heaped on Founding Farmers. People. Loved. This. Place. We personally were impressed with the restaurant's purported eco-consciousness, and we loved the fact that the meat was predominantly grass-fed and locally sourced. Plus the restaurant itself is LEED Gold-certified (a nice touch!). So we finally decided to give it a try, and we trekked over this past summer. Here are my thoughts...
I had heard complaints that FF was deafening inside, but the ambience was good - it was loud, but there was a nice energy to it all. I had heard good things about the cocktails. The list was insanely impressive, with a few "Prohibition-Era" cocktails made from genuine early 1900s recipes. I had a "Farmer's Favorite" Organic Cucumber Delight ($12) that blended Square One organic vodka with organic cucumbers and cantaloupe. It was dangerously delicious - as in, I downed two and then sat there in a happy fog of booziness for the rest of the meal (how much booze was in those things?). As full beer snobs and loyal Beer Advocate readers, we were satisfied with the beer list - Brother Thelonius, Stoudt's, and Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale add a nice rounding to any selection.
The service was eclectic - at first, we were the most popular people there. Servers couldn't wait to drop by the table - refilling water glasses, taking our drink orders, asking if we had any questions ... in fact, so many servers dropped by that we weren't even sure that we had an assigned person. It was a service free-for-all. But after we finished our meal, this dropped off completely, and we waited 20-30 minutes for the check. Perhaps we offended them. Perhaps I had something green in my teeth. Perhaps they were frightened of my sucking down the cucumber thingy. Perhaps someone else was just that much cooler. Who knows.
So the mains - this was what we had been waiting for! This was what people talked about. The kitchen was definitely on target that night. The portions were enormous. I had the Fork Tender Pork Ribs - glazed with FF BBQ sauce - and the name says it all. The ribs literally fell from the bone. The bones were completely clean, and I didn't pick up my knife once. The hubs ordered the Low Country Shrimp and Grits, which boasted a "light sherry tomato sauce" that was more bisque-like than anything I've had on shrimp and grits. It was delightful. We were happy.
Unfortunately, there was a seamier side to this good time. We ordered hush puppies and they were soft and utterly tasteless. Good hush puppies are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, but these were doughy balls of cornmeal. We weren't happy with the fried green tomatoes. The batter was "meh" - there was no kick. The fries that accompanied my meal were weak and limp, with a terrible mealy taste (this wasn't such a bad thing, since it prevented me from eating them). My other side, coleslaw, was bland, bland, bland. I think the kitchen forgot to add the vinegar. It was basically sliced and diced cabbage in a creamy sauce. Not worth it.
Since then, I've heard a lot of mixed reviews. When the kitchen is on target, it is ON. But some nights it's just ... off. I mean, everyone has bad days. So give it a shot. But if you aren't happy with something, be sure to speak up and tell the server/manager. Maybe all FF needs is some constructive criticism.
* NOTE: When I posted this review on Yelp, the FF Manager contacted me via e-mail to apologize for the poor quality level of the sides, and pledged to discuss the issue with the chef. I am unaware as to whether this did, in fact, occur, as we have not been back since.
(Photo credit: coredc)