Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Founding Farmers Breakfast Review

Top Notch, Sans the Hosts

One thing I miss from the 1980's is the "power breakfast." Before Americans "gave in" to the Egg McMuffin, dignified folks could dine like royalty... over eggs, bacon and Mimosas (not to mention cloth napkins.) Thankfully, sentimental sorts like me can head over to Founding Farmers at 1924 Pennsylvania Ave., NW... and eat their favorite meal of the day to their heart's content.

Since opening in 2008, Founding Farmers has made a name for itself by offering "farm-inspired American True Food & Drink." Locals love it: The place is full morning, noon and night. So full in fact, that I've been dissuaded to visit until today. I popped in, just minutes before 11 and asked for breakfast. One of three hosts confirmed I could still have it, and asked if I wanted to eat at the counter. Seeing plenty of seats available, I asked for a table. She seemed discouraged by my request and actually took a few moments to finish a chat with her fellow hosts, before showing me to a nearby table. Outside of her "pregnant pause," my hostess turned out to be friendly enough. Moments later, I was enthusiastically greeted by a bartender who asked if I wanted a drink while I waited for my server. I chose a Farmers Cranberry Cucumber Cooler ($4) and didn't have long to wait for Samantha.

Samantha is the type of server who renews your faith in the food service industry. Courteous and jovial, she took my order for a Founding Farmers Breakfast with Bacon ($9) and a side Maple Cinnamon Waffle ($6.) I had a short wait to notice a bustling, yet attractive dining area. It's impeccably clean and I especially enjoyed the "pillowy clouds" directly overhead. A for atmosphere.

A few minutes later, Samantha brought both dishes (see below) to my table. I was a bit intimidated, and began to regret ordering two breakfasts. Undaunted (who am I kidding?) I devoured my Farmers Breakfast. Two strips of applewood smoked bacon were crispy, salty and delicious. The farm fresh eggs were light, fluffy and cooked perfectly. I was especially impressed with the shredded leek hash browns (which were shaped wonderfully, and tasted like regular hash browns.) A tiny piece of grilled ciabatta bread completed the plate (Looking back, I would have preferred an english muffin.) All in all, a great plate of food; but I still had a waffle to take care of.

Founding Farmers Breakfast with Bacon

Approaching full, I didn't need a Farmhouse Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream (which I was accidentally served instead of the Maple Cinnamon that I ordered and paid for.) The strawberries and waffle were scrumptious, but the whole dish was just too sweet for me... More dessert than breakfast. I tried, but couldn't clear my plate. I also didn't finish my drink (sorry, cranberries and cucumbers don't play well together.)

$26 (including tip) isn't cheap for breakfast; but thanks to Samantha and Founding Farmers' wonderful ingredients, I have no regrets. I left my table feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, I was about to experience something I find inexcusable (especially at an upscale eatery.) While exiting, I passed the host station where two different hosts (possibly one host and one server) were engaged in casual conversation. The hostess looked me dead in the eye, and said nothing. I smiled and said "thank you," yet she continued to look right through me. The other guy kept chatting. Talk about a lousy last(ing) impression. Hosts have a very specific (and rather easy, if you ask me) task to accomplish... Make patrons feel welcome and appreciated. If I had someone like this on my staff, I'd be embarrassed... especially if I continued to employ them. Lest anyone think it's not important, ten seconds of poor service dropped my overall grade from B+ to a C+. Here's hoping Founding Farmers fixes an easy-to-solve problem; so diners can focus on what's most important (the food.)

Atmosphere: A (It's a beautiful space.)
Food: B+ (What a great way to start off any day.)
Service: D- (Bartender and Server were A+, but host experience was a nightmare.)
Value: B
Overall: C+ (Should have been a B+, but the final minute left a bad taste in this reviewer's mouth.)