They opened another Founding Farmers out in Tyson’s corner, right outside the mall and we’ve had the luxury of being able to try it (1) when it first opened, (2) a second time as they were updating their service and adjusting to the layout, and (3) this weekend, now that they have their business model set up for success. My short preface is that our experiences have been wildly varied and inconsistent, sometimes for an amazing experience, and sometimes just “eh”.
Founding Farmers is a farm-to-table restaurant, and for brunch has an upscale buffet available. You can order a few items a la carte, but the menu is not particularly extensive for that option, so you’d likely opt for the brunch buffet. The brunch buffet has what I consider four main areas that I’ll describe in more detail. Additionally, they also have servers that wander around with trays of fresh foods. This has been anything from eggs benedict to cream-filled doughnuts to warm buttery biscuits. Unfortunately this doughnut came around as we were finishing up, and between T and I, we couldn’t even finish one! I’m also not a huge fan of cream-filled doughnut because while the doughnut was very well-fried it was fairly dense already, and didn’t really need the added sweetness or heaviness.
The first area is an omelette bar. The “omelette bar” is not a made-to-order omelette bar, and more of the chef just making several types of scrambles: cheesy eggs, mushroom & spinach eggs, and occasionally a third type of eggs, available for your selection. There’s also another table that has more of a frittata/hash of eggs, meaning I’m not actually sure what to call it, but it has hash browns on the bottom, topped with eggs, a touch of hollandaise and mixed with seasonal items. This time there was one with beets, and the other with roast beef. They also have large sausage links, regular bacon, and this time (new for us) barbecue bacon! The last was definitely A+. There is a good amount of variety here, but this time we went, it seemed like things had been sitting out for a while and the eggs were cooked through whereas I prefer just a touch of runniness to my eggs. They do wonderfully on turnover, for the plates were always filled and cleared out right away for replacements. However, in this case, I actually think it’s a little bit of a downside. They fill in the holes and pile up foods, so that the bottom or back of dishes never get touched and if you ever do get down to the bottom, things are dried out and not fresh. The plates are also huge which encourages overeating and wasting food.
Beside the eggs area, they have a pancake/french toast bar. I’ve never actually had the french toast, but mostly because the pancakes are amazing! They’re light and fluffy and everything you want in a pancake, especially topped with strawberry puree, or syrup, or butter, or however you like yours. They constantly make regular pancakes and blueberry pancakes, and Tyler and I couldn’t remember if they’ve always had them, but they also had chocolate chip pancakes this weekend. This weekend as we visited, there was a long line for the egg bar, and with the pancakes tucked in the corner we had a debate about whether we needed to stand in line, or could cut over to the pancake bar, which was a little frustrating. We ended up waiting, because Tyler thought it was the polite thing to do, but I still think we could have snuck in and been done with it much faster.
The third area is more of the “lunch” side of brunch, with everything from four different kinds of salads, to crostini with different dips, to ham, turkey and roast beef carved fresh for you. They have a stew, shepard’s pie, green beans, mashed potatoes, and my personal favorite the mac & cheese. My extra favorite is mac & cheese + mashed potatoes in the same bite mostly because I’m a die-hard carb fan and what more could you want than potatoes, pasta, and cheese in one bite?
The fourth and last area is a little separate from the others, and is the pastry and dessert area. They’ve had different things every time we went; this time it was little cheesecakes, croissants, danishes, a chocolate mousse, and probably about 8 more things I’m forgetting. I know in the past they’ve had donut holes, key lime pie, chocolate croissants, and braided almond twists. While there are a ton of options, things are not labeled so you’re mostly guessing at what looks good. While you hardly ever wrong, I find it a little overwhelming to not be able to rule things out immediately that I wouldn’t like, and could see a problem if you have a specific allergy. However, the staff are extremely available and helpful throughout all areas so you can always ask and they’ll gladly tell you or find someone who can tell you.
My overall impression of Founding Farmer’s is that it’s a tasty, upscale place (especially in price). Unfortunately, because of the pricetag, they’ve fallen a little short of my expectations. The food is good. Solid. There are definitely some highlights to the meal, namely the mac and cheese and mashed potatoes for the lunch part, and the pancakes for the breakfast part. But considering it clocks in around $30/person, I want the highlights of my meal to be more than three things that I can make at home, or get elsewhere for cheaper.
Founding Farmer’s is always incredibly busy, so I suggest making a reservation or getting their early, or ideally, both. Today we called ahead to ask about seating around 10am, and they informed us they were booked solid, but that we could sit at the bar easily, which was accurate. We ate from the bar, and the bartender was quite nice and attentive without hovering, which is always a plus for me. But that said, I don’t really love sitting side-by-side at a bar, and I prefer a slightly less crowded experience, especially for the way that their buffet is laid out. I do love the decor, and these little hanging ball lights above the bar!
My conclusion is that Founding Farmers gets a 3.5 out of 5 chocochips (read: stars). The three different times we’ve been there, we’ve had a wide variety of experiences from crowded to not crowded, to great food, to mediocre food (because it had been sitting out). I think it’s a fun place to try, because if you hit it at the right setting, it can be a wonderful and super tasty and fresh experience. Now that I’ve been a few times, it’s a place that I don’t mind going, but for the price, I’d rather go to one of our other local joints to get a more consistent experience with food that’s just as good, if not better.
Founding Farmers Website
1800 Tyson’s Boulevard
McLean VA, 22102