Farmers and Distillers (Washington, DC)

(Minor UpdateIn 2022 they rebranded the restaurant as “Founding Farmers & Distillers”, I think to more fully tie in with their successful sister restaurants, but otherwise the place is basically unchanged)

May was a landmark month for us. After 15 months of pandemic isolation, we finally had a chance to flex our fully-vaccinated wings and go on a trip to Washington DC to meet up with friends to revisit some DC area favorites, like Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA. But this was also a chance to do something that we hadn’t had much opportunity to indulge in during the pandemic in New Hampshire: have a good, old-fashioned, excessive brunch! I’ve always had a favorite for this sort of meal when in DC: Founding Farmers, and this time I wanted to try their sister restaurant, Farmers and Distillers, located on NW Massachusetts Avenue at Mount Vernon Square, at the north end of Chinatown (and conveniently close to our hotel near Union Station).

Like its sister restaurant, Farmers and Distiller is a casual dining restaurant that focuses on farm-to-table food, quite specifically in this case: the restaurant is owned in part by the North Dakota Farmers Union as a way to bring their products direct to the dining market. In this case, they’ve also started a distillery, Founding Spirits, and tweaked the concept to feature the distilleries products on their menu, with half the restaurant being a nice cocktail bar. Like Founding Farmers, the big draw on a weekend at Farmers and Distillers is a breakfast buffet, and for us, this was our first experience with a pandemic-era “full service” buffet line. Instead of just helping yourself from the buffet line, they put up plexiglass barriers and your plate works from one buffet station to the next, with the staff composing your plate for you. I was a bit skeptical at first, but aside from a slight lack of flexibility, the concept worked pretty well. A handful of the items, instead of being buffet-served, can also be ordered from your waiter and brought out from the kitchen. So despite our still remaining skiddishness around crowds, between the full-service buffet and a pleasant outdoor table, we were pretty comfortable.

Since one of the concepts here is their partner distillery, we felt compelled to try out their product, each opting for a house Bloody Mary, made with their own vodka, house mix, and a nice selection of pickled veggies. It’s really hard to just the vodka quality from a mixed cocktail like this, but I’ll have to say, this was a particularly bold and spicy, well-rounded mix with a good blend of tomato, red pepper, and black pepper notes. Definitely one of the better Bloody Marys I’ve had recently.

For the buffet items, I was generally quite pleased with the quality. They had a good selection of proteins available, ranging from fried chicken (both Southern and Chinese-spiced), breaded catfish, several sausages, Virginia ham, to smoked brisket. Of the buffet-served items, I was probably most pleased with the fried chicken: for buffet-served chicken, the quality was quite good: crisp breading, moist chicken, and a good level of spicing (either Southern-spiced or Chinese-spiced), rounded out with some nice cheese grits, a good egg scramble, and a nice slab of carved Virginia ham (not shown).

But probably my favorite of the entire breakfast meal were all items brought out from the kitchen. The real star was a simple one: buttermilk pancakes. Nothing fancy about these, just a pair of pancakes brought out from the kitchen with butter and syrup, but these were well-executed: a nice perfect crisp and a good, slightly chewy texture: I can see why they serve these from the kitchen: they’d lose a lot if steam-tabled. Other kitchen-served stars included the spiced bacon “lollies” (Five-spiced glazed bacon served on sticks) and a surprisingly nice Benedict.

Overall, we enjoyed this. Like Founding Farmers, Farmers and Distillers has a solid buffet spread on weekends, making for an enjoyable and filling brunch. The quality was good, with items that don’t hold up well to a buffet line served straight from the kitchen. And, quite honestly, given the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, they executed a buffet line quite well. I’d happily come back and give this another try.

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