Day 53: Is Meat Manly? (Review of Founding Farmers restaurant)

Day 53: Is Meat Manly? (Review of Founding Farmers restaurant)

Sep 22

As often happens, we have started to lose momentum in our efforts to investigate and protest modern methods of food production. This does NOT mean, however, that we have strayed from our original course. We have not had a “meat meal” (where meat is the main course) for a couple weeks now. Sure, I’ve eaten sandwiches with ham, and we used bacon as an ingredient in a few dinners recently, but the meat hasn’t been the star.

Frankly, I find that I’m not really craving a big hunk of meat the way I thought I would. I still love the flavor of many meats, and I would be happy to taste them sometime soon, but I don’t spend any part of my day thinking about what I’m missing. In our culture, meat is a very manly food, and it seems like everyone believes men need meat more than women. That’s simply not true. Some guys I know have lamented my situation since, as a man, it must be really hard for me to go vegetarian, but I think it’s a sentiment born of ignorance (or maybe a deep personal preference for meat). (Check out this article at that talks about how food is highly gendered in America.)

The last time I had a “meat meal” was at Founding Farmers in Washington, DC. (Even though we still haven’t written our post about eating sustainably in DC, it remains an item on our to-do list.) Laura discovered this restaurant online, and I was very happy to read about their food philosophy. According to their site, “independent family farmers have been both the foundation and the pillars of their communities.” They believe that every person has the right to enjoy a “green ‘meal away from home’ and strive to buy ingredients that are sustainable over ingredients that are local or organic. This means they would rather buy from a family farm in California than a corporate organic farm in Virginia. After looking at their menu, we felt comfortable ordering whatever we wanted.

The atmosphere there was awesome. Hanging over the entry is a fabric cloud suspended from the ceiling, surrounded by small ceramic birds, each with a light shining through a hole in its center. Directly in front of you as you walk through the door is the staircase to the second floor. Beside that is a set of shelves containing what are obviously recently sealed jars of various pickling vegetables. The structural supports throughout the first floor are covered with a faux wood facade, making them look like shipping crates. They are all decorated with stenciled artwork and lettering, things like “Farmers Market this way.” The first floor is dominated by a large oblong bar and two walls of windows. The second floor, which from below has a very curvy profile, appears to be supported by massive beams of wood, though I’m fairly certain they were steel beams covered with wood. All of this was very encouraging as we walked in only an hour from closing time with no reservation. The place was packed, the bar was hopping, and we were asked to wait 30 minutes for a table, to which we gladly agreed.

When we were finally seated and handed menus, I was a little disappointed to find that their menu consists mostly of standard steakhouse food. I was expecting original combinations and food pairings, fresh flavors, and plenty of delightful choices. Still optimistic, I decided to opt for a good steak dinner, so I ordered a ribeye, served with mashed potatoes and green beans. While we waited for our food, we pretty much froze to death – they must keep the A/C around 60 degrees! Sadly, when my steak finally came, I found it to be well-cooked, but far too gristly. The potatoes were just a lump on my plate and the green beans were so al dente, it was like eating well-washed raw beans. Overall, I was malcontent with my meal, the more so because it was the most expensive meal we ate in DC, and I expected it to be a really incredible experience.

Despite all of this, though, I would still have to recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting DC who’s interested in eating sustainable food. The flavors were good, even though they weren’t original. The atmosphere was fabulous. The drink selection was expansive. They seem to be sustainable by our standards. And, even though I wasn’t impressed by the menu, it was still peppered with some intriguing options. I think my mistake was ordering the least original dish on the menu, simply because I wanted a “meat meal” for a change. For instance, you can get Lisa’s Pickled Vegetable of the Day (which I assume were previously in jars on the shelf near the door) for $4; Bacon Lollis (Bacon Candied with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Glaze) for $9; salami, ricotta and hand-made pesto flatbread for $8; Rustic Chicken Pot Pie for $14; or a 17 Vegetable Salad for $14.

If you go, will you please tell me how you liked it? I’d love to know that it’s better than my experience led me to believe!



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