Sunday, April 12, 2009

Founding Farmers

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Founding Farmers sounded great in concept: owned by a co-op of more than 42,000 farmers, the restaurant promises fresh food prepared with the products from its founding family farms, ranches and fisheries. Its space on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC is even LEED certified. As we walked there for Sunday brunch, we were confident this was going to be a memorable experience. And it was...memorable...just not in the way we were expecting.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were a little surprised to see one of its employees bent over the bushes outside, puking. The point when she made eye contact with us and went back to hurling really should have been our sign to keep walking. But we were just so curious about the place that we went in anyway, figuring our chances of this woman actually being our server had to be pretty low, right?

%$()# as I will call her for purposes of this post, greeted us at our table with the same bloodshot eyes that moments earlier had acknowledged us from the shrubs outside. She nonchalantly gestured behind her to describe the restaurant's pre-prohibition era style bar, complete with professional mixologists. After watching her performance outside, the last thing we wanted was a drink. However never ones to make a fuss at a restaurant, we managed to momentarily shrug it off in the interest of a highly-anticipated meal.

Deviled Eggs, Founding Farmers
Devil-ish Eggs - $4

Cornbread, Founding Farmers
Skillet Cornbread - $5

About halfway through our appetizers, %$()# was back outside our window, within the view of the entire side of the restaurant, hurling. We watched in disbelief as she made three separate trips back outside, between refilling coffee and water, to barf in the bushes. I am not even sure she washed her hands. Was there not a private employee bathroom of some kind that she could use? How "back-to-the-land" is this place, I am wondering at this point. Suffice to say, as the server lost her cookies, we lost our appetites. In fact, we were just about to fold and ask for the check when our entrees were delivered: a burger for J, pumpkin risotto and seared scallops for me. I didn't think anything could keep me from loving every minute of eating scallops, but a chunk of upchuck on the server's cheek proved me wrong.

We got through the meal, paid the bill and on our way out, asked to speak to the manager on shift. Her response: "Yes, I can't believe %$()# is working when she is so sick...we have been trying to get her off the floor all morning." At this point it occurred to me that our server might have a serious case of the flu, rather than a nasty hangover, and the absurdity of the situation hit an entirely new low. We left Founding Farmers absolutely shell-shocked and incredibly disappointed.

Days later I still could not get over the blatant disregard this server apparently had for the restaurant, its food and customers. I was compelled to email the general manager to inform him of our experience. In his prompt response he agreed that a member of his staff puking in the bushes outside is not good publicity for the restaurant, and offered to host us back at Founding Farmers, his treat. While we won't be visiting DC anytime soon, his response was sincere enough to suggest that Founding Farmers might be worthy of a second chance.

- K

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20006
202.822.TRUE

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