By Jesse Medalia Strauss, American University
Restaurant Review: Founding Farmers
When most people think about the causes of climate change, the images that come to mind are likely exhaust-spewing cars and smoking oil refineries. Seldom do we take into account the how the food we eat affects our climate. Yet, we all impact global greenhouse gas emissions through the choices we make about what we buy at the grocery store, how we cook, and which restaurants we go to. The fact that a sustainable, carbon neutral, and 100% mouth-watering restaurant exists right in downtown Washington, D.C. truly is a breath of fresh air. Really, if more restaurants were like this the air would be fresher. Its name: Founding Farmers.
The first noticeable thing about this new district establishment is the name. In a community with several restaurants that boast politically-themed names -- Hawks and Doves, The Source, We the Pizza -- Founding Farmers fits right in. The name also rings true. Founding Farmers is actually owned and run by family farmers. Their ingenuity produces a menu that is creative and varies depending on what seasonal produce is available.
No restaurant in D.C. takes sustainability more seriously than Founding Farmers -- from the building itself to the tables you sit at. On their Web site, the owners explain how they view sustainability:
What does sustainability mean? It’s about growing, buying and eating food that is good – for the people that eat it, the farmers that harvest it, the animals that produce it and the world that grows it.
The restaurant building is LEED Gold certified. That means all the energy, water, heating, and air conditioning systems are designed for maximum efficiency with very little waste. Everything that can be recycled is recycled. Even the menus are printed from recycled paper. The furniture is constructed from trees that have already fallen. Even the honey is made locally by beekeepers in the George Washington University Biology Department. (Watch a TalkingScience video of the urban beekeepers here!)
Unfortunately, it is impossible to run a restaurant and have completely zero impact on the environment. Food needs to be shipped; ovens run constantly; it takes a lot of energy to keep a restaurant going. That is why Founding Farmers purchases carbon offsets for all their extra environmental costs. Thanks to the offsets, the restaurant is completely carbon neutral.
All those extra steps to take care of the environment would be for nothing if the food were not good. Luckily, Founding Farmers does not have that problem. The food is excellent.
In terms of appetizers, definitely order the corn bread. It tastes like it was taken out of the oven a minute before arriving at your table. It comes with homemade fresh butter that has a sweet taste to it. If you are looking for something unique to share with your friends, the other appetizer that is a must try is the bacon-wrapped dates. Founding Farmers also features a special, "Popcorn of the Day" that is worth checking out.
The best sandwich is definitely the Frisco Burger. Topped with avocado, bacon, and sharp white cheddar, you can’t ask for a better combination of flavors. Make sure you ask what the butcher’s cut sandwich of the day is before you order.
As far as entrees go, definitely pick one of their signature dishes. The Skirt Steak and Chicken Enchilada dish essentially combines the best of what they have to offer. It is a mini enchilada next to half a skirt steak, served with guacamole. All the meat is tender and cooked right -- and the sauces are great too! I cannot speak for the deserts, because unfortunately, by that point, I was way too full.
Founding Farmers is located at 1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, D.C.
For a video about the beekeepers who supply Founding Farmers with local honey, check out
For more on urban sustainability, check out the TalkingScience multimedia project:
Jesse Medalia Strauss grew up in New York City's Upper West Side and studies film and media at American University in Washington, DC. Formerly a TalkingScience intern, Jesse is now a video producer for TalkingScience.