The new restaurant on the first level of the IMF Building on Penn has an amazing space to fill. Two stories, floor to ceiling glass walls, incredible internal architecture. Founding Farmers is based on some pretty simple concepts: Farm to Table cuisine, seasonally prepared and scheduled, and green engineering that defines the dining room.
And, for all of that, Founding Farmers delivers nicely on the food side of things. Their menu covers a lot of ground, but stays mostly with things you might already recognize. Meatloaf. Pot Roast. American Classics. But, with the emphasis on local sourcing, the food takes on a whole new character. One of the things we fell in love with this summer was the concept of seasonality. Broccoli when it’s fresh out of the fields, strawberries for three weeks in June, potatoes fresh from the fields. Founding Farmers captures this pretty well.
When it finally got to us.
Our group was fairly large, at 12 people, but Founding Farmers will gladly book tables for 8, 10 or 12, or more still if you’re willing to rent out their event space. And these aren’t tables that are just put together and stacked into 8-tops, they’re built for groups from the bottom up. I was pleased to find our table waiting for us to arrive a little before 7pm, and that the hosts were so flexible with our trickling-in-from-work crowd, something they should be applauded for, it’s just a shame that the service doesn’t match.
The cocktails at Founding Farmers are delightful, they’re unique and fresh tastes, but the service took forever. It was annoying to see the bar not five feet from the table, but nothing coming from it. We waited, in some cases 20-30 minutes for refills. Water was plentiful, and we were grateful for it, but anything from the bar was a good long wait. Dinner was little better, in that regard.
Though we sat down a little before seven, it would be well after eight before our main courses arrived. The appetizers, including some tasty little cheeseburgers, bacon wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese, and house-made potato chips with delicious dips, were amazing across the board. Don’t forget the deviled eggs, they’re a house specialty. Just don’t plan on going anywhere in a hurry. We spent most of the evening waiting between events, our table covered in plates and miscellaneous utensils. No sign of the overaggressive server, or even the attentive server. One hint to management: when most of your staff’s comments to the table start with, “I’m sorry,” clearly something’s awry, and needs to be fixed.
So, I’ll cut Founding Farmers some slack, they’ve only been open six weeks, but in many ways it felt like opening night. Go for the food, take only a few friends (so you don’t get hit with the ludicrously high 20% service charge for parties over 8, something that galled all of us this evening) and plan on spending a good long time talking. I want to go back for brunch, but I think I’ll wait a few months for them to get their service working like a well-oiled machine. As it was, the food was delicious, but the service will keep me from going back right away.
Postscript – I did submit feedback via their website last night before crashing, and this morning I had a note from their general manager, offering to refund our service charges, and offering a gift certificate for future dining. They’re pretty serious about good service it seems.