Meb Byrne

Founding Farmers

In american, dc, restaurant on July 17, 2009 at 10:28 am

Find yourself longing to be down home on the family farm again, but don’t want to leave the luxuries to which you’ve become accustomed in the big city? Head over to Founding Farmers, a chic take on Americana.

Located at 1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, Founding Farmers takes classic American fare and dresses it up. The portions are hearty and huge, and the extensive menu features something for everyone. The restaurant’s draw is its commitment to sustainability and green living: all the fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and dairy products served in the restaurant come from local, independent family farmers.

The restaurant is clean and modern with huge windows. The interior features dark wood and feels like a farmhouse. Bare glass bulbs are suspended in a line above long wooden tables, perhaps once made of rough-hewn pine boards, now shiny with varnish. Luminescent cotton clouds swath overhead lighting, in a modern tribute to the prairie sky. Large glass jars of pickles, peppers and tomatos, soaking in brine, line the shelves and walls surrounding you.

The food tastes like it was made in a bright country kitchen by a strong, substantive woman using a large knife. Appetizers include warm corn bread, full of surprisingly sweet kernels, which arrives in a small cast iron skillet with whipped butter. A sextet of devilled eggs are filled with mashed lobster, crab, and salmon; the three seafood fillings are chunky and light, a nice departure from mayonnaise-laden picnic fare.

Salads incorporate creative ingredients like caramelized onions and dried figs. The seventeen vegetable salad comes in a hefty glass mixing bowl, fit for two people or several rabbits. The late harvest salad showcases good, strong flavors, but risks being overpowered by an unyielding bleu cheese. Stick to a half-portion of greens, and leave room for the stick-to-your-ribs entrees. A surprising array of traditional country standards, including short ribs, meat loaf, pot roast, pork chop, and several cuts of steak, all make appearances on the menu. Salmon, marinated in either apricot-infused maple syrup or an herb-lemon glaze, is served on a birchwood trencher. The outstanding grilled cheese sandwich features gooey Gruyere and Vermont white cheddar, which stretch into strings as high as an elephant’s eye. The thick toast of the sandwich is buttered, chock full of grains, and delightfully bitter.

If Founding Farmers occasionally misses the mark, it is when the cuisine strays too far from comfort food and heads into the realm of DC cocktail party fare. The bacon-wrapped dates, too large to fit into your mouth and too complicated to bite in half, are mushy and bloated with an overly-acidic feta cheese. The candied bacon lollis sound innovative, but come out as your basic chunk of meat on a stick. That said, the bacon itself, like all the meats at Founding Farmers, is great: thick, hearty, and never crispy or flabby.

Polish off your meal with the famous doughnuts, or a giant slice of cake with ice cream. The multi-layered carrot cake is pocked with plump sultanas and robed in velvety cream cheese frosting. The red velvet cake (also with cream cheese frosting) and the yellow cake (with chocolate) are similarly oversized, reminiscent of down-home drug store treats. To bring you home, order black coffee and sip while you soften into your chair and think of home.

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