Founding Farmers' fried chicken falls short of hype

Founding Farmers' fried chicken falls short of hype
D.C.’s recently seen a resurgence of farm-to-table food movement, and restaurants Farmers and Fishers and Founding Farmers are leading this sustainable cuisine revolution.

I recently discovered that I have an unhealthy, love/hate relationship with the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Much of my winter break was spent procrastinating at my internship, only to be followed by me rushing home to watch the Food Network. I spent many evenings watching the show, listening to Giada De Laurentiis fawn over doughnuts and Alton Brown gush about crispy black-eyed peas. It was enough to make anyone’s mouth water.

But “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” had to go and air an episode devoted to fried chicken. As if my mouth wasn’t drooling enough, they had to go give me hunger pains. So with rumblings in my belly, I set off to sample the much-hyped fried chicken at Founding Farmers.

Founding Farmers is located in Park Potomac, Md., and downtown D.C. and is the sister restaurant of Farmers and Fishers, located on the Georgetown waterfront.

Though Farmers and Fishers is now closed due to flooding last year, both restaurants feature only local and regional produce and meat and boast sustainable agricultural practices. The Farmers’ are just two restaurants taking part in the farm-to-table movement that’s become so popular in Washington, but only one of them excels in its farm-fresh vision.

It’s a shame that Founding Farmers is such a letdown, considering the menu seems poised for success.

And the fried chicken I’d been dreaming about? It was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the meal.

In fact, I suggest you skip every cast-iron fried chicken dish they serve. The “North” preparation promises a thick, crispy outside but instead delivers stringy, flavorless meat and equally dry skin. The “South” style is only a smidge tastier with its juicy and salty inside. You’ll have to brave the soggy skin to get to the meat, though.

As a good-ol’ American restaurant, I recommend sticking with the classics at Founding Farmers. The “baby” burgers are a highlight, with their juicy, plump patties sandwiched between buttery brioche buns. It’s the perfect ratio of meat to bread.

The “Poto mac and cheese” is a favorite as well, with seven different gooey cheeses.

Though the Washington Post recently hailed Founding Farmers’ popcorn of the day as one of the 40 best things to eat in D.C., make sure to ask what the flavor is before you order; let’s hope it isn’t the super salty bacon seasoning I had.

Speaking of crispy pork, try the bacon “lollis” as a starter. The chunks of bacon lacquered with a sticky cinnamon glaze are perfect for those who think the best part about pancakes is dunking the bacon in maple syrup. They’re a smidge too sweet for an appetizer, but hey, it’s bacon.

Farmers and Fishers, however, has one up on Found Farmers, dipping their bacon lollis in chocolate. Even though there’s a significant overlap in menu options between the two restaurants, don’t settle for Founding Farmers lackluster dishes. Wait until this spring when Farmers and Fishers reopens and try the juicy butter burger or their version of boneless fried chicken, “cowboy” style.

The Baja style fish tacos are not to be missed; the cilantro, crumbly cotija cheese and fresh mango salsa toppings are delicious.

End the meal on a high note by ordering a bag of Beignets with raspberry, chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. New Orlean’s Café Du Monde would be proud of those fried, doughy pillows.

Who knows, they just might be good enough to land a spot on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

kholliday@theeagleonline.com

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