Like most DCers, I woke up Saturday morning to a wintery surprise: snowpacalypse 2.0! Since I missed snowpacalypse 1.0 back in December, I was more than excited to see the snow falling. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was less than thrilled to be dragged outside to play in the snow, but he grudgingly indulged my requests. Bundled up in our warmest jackets, we decided to walk to the White House (pictured above), which was beautiful and pristine in the freshly fallen snow.
Needless to say, we were freezing and famished after our trek. Founding Farmers, located just a few blocks from the White House, seemed like an oasis at the time–a warm and welcome respite from the cold. The restaurant occupies a sleek and expansive 2-story space below the IMF building. But even with two levels, the restaurant was packed when we arrived (apparently, lots of people had the same idea). Luckily, we were able to find 2 seats at the bar–complete with flat screen TVs showing the Duke v. Georgetown game, which my boyfriend was ecstatic about.
Founding Farmers (FF) is a Certified Green restaurant and DC’s first Certified LEED (Gold) restaurant. Its cuisine is described as “farm-inspired American true food and drink in a modern, casual and eco-friendly setting”–which means homemade products where possible (e.g. breads, pasta, sausage, sauces) and everything else made from locally sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients. While all of these endeavors are quite admirable (and ones that I wholeheartedly support), they sadly did not translate into the high quality, flavorful cuisine I was expecting from FF.
The menu is quite expansive, offering everything from pancakes and bacon lollis to handmade flatbreads and pasta to enchiladas. Honestly, I think the all-encompassing menu is part of the problem. For the life of me, I couldn’t decipher what the restaurant’s specialty was. Was it the handmade pastas? Or one of the many comfort food dishes? Or maybe it was the random steak enchiladas, the lone Tex-Mex item on the menu?
After much debate, my boyfriend and I finally settled on the sausage, mushroom, and spinach scramble served with leek hash browns and a homemade English muffin ($12) and the southern pan fried chicken served with mac and cheese, gravy, and waffles ($16). When I read the description for the scramble, I was expecting a huge amount of food (and I was ready to eat it all). So you can imagine my disappointment with the small portion of eggs and hash browns which arrived. Nothing on the plate stood out in my mind–the eggs, potatoes, and even the in-house-baked English muffin with homemade strawberry preserves were all just blah (for lack of a better term).
While the scramble was monotonous throughout, the pan fried chicken had more ups and downs. The chicken itself was very good: moist on the inside,with a crisp and flavorful crust on the outside. The creamy white gravy perfectly balanced the saltiness of the chicken. Sadly, everything else on the plate went down hill. The mac and cheese was mediocre at best: the cheese sauce was watery and the pasta overcooked. The waffles would have been fine, if they hadn’t been drowned in a sea of melted butter. And the broccoli that came with the meal seemed to be more of an afterthought than an accompaniment–soggy and flavorless.
Despite the underwhelming food, I wouldn’t write off Founding Farmers completely yet. It has a fun atmosphere, convenient location, admirable mission, and potential for improving given the high quality ingredients it uses (which may help to justify its higher than average prices). Unpaid gourmets looking for a cheap and delicious bite to eat shouldn’t head here, but if you’re caught in the snow and near the White House, Founding Farmers will suffice.
1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (IMF HQ2)