Founding Farmers – A Bad Experience

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a bad review of a restaurant before, so this is somewhat of an unfortunate first.

As I mentioned on the D.C. post, we had planned out a few special restaurants well in advance. Founding Farmers was one that we were particularly looking forward to. On top of the fact that several people have told me it was their favorite restaurant in D.C., it’s mission of supporting small farmers and buying local, organic ingredients when possible is certainly right up our alley. A restaurant that composts!

And the food was, overall, pretty good! But there were a series of increasingly bizarre mishaps that were sort of impossible to ignore. It could be that we were just unlucky or had a particularly bad waitress, but I believe indicate a larger problem with the way the restaurant is run.

The first incident was that we got the wrong appetizer. Now, before you jump down my throat, this was no big deal and probably wouldn’t even have been worth mentioning if not for everything that came after. It was quickly and painlessly resolved.

However, when the meals came out, we also received a wrong entree. I can’t stress enough how much I don’t like to send food back or make a fuss at a restaurant, but in this case the kids had ordered a plain hamburger (no cheese), but instead received a blue cheese bacon burger. The waitress even said, “Hamburger, no cheese!” when she set it down on the table. Evie will not eat cheese of any kind, but especially loathes blue cheese, so I had no choice but to ask for a new one.

Unfortunately our waitress had disappeared and it took quite some time to get a replacement. Now again, even at this point, it was no big deal. It was the next incident which was really the kicker.

After we exchanged the burger and started to eat, Sara said, “My salad is wrong too. This has olives on it.” So we once again flagged down the waitress and explained there had been another mistake. Naturally, she was flustered. “No, that’s the salad you ordered!” she insisted. “I don’t remember which salad I ordered, but I really don’t like olives, so I’m pretty sure the one I ordered didn’t have olives,” said Sara. “I wanted the one with the grapes and the dates?” “No, I’m sure that’s the one you ordered,” insisted the waitress again. “I’m sure of it.”

She went off to get the menu to prove it to us, and at this point I know Sara was feeling like maybe she accidentally said the wrong salad. But when the waitress got back and showed us the menu, the salad listed said:

Farmers Salad

Baby Lettuce, Avocado, Dates, Tomatoes, Red Grapes, Almonds, Parmesan Cheese, Champagne Vinaigrette

“Yes, that’s the one I ordered!” said Sara. “It doesn’t say olives.” “Well,” said the waitress in a snotty tone. “It doesn’t list everything.”

This is where it started to go off the rails. Yes it does too list everything, and furthermore olives are a pretty significant ingredient. We’re not talking about some extra sunflower seeds or something; adding olives to that salad significantly changes the character of the salad. You can’t add olives and not mention it; Sara is not the only one who doesn’t like olives. In retrospect, there didn’t seem to be any dates on the salad, so maybe they substituted olives for dates? But, again, you can’t not mention a substitution like that.

But furthermore, if there are unlicensed olives on a salad and someone complains about it, you can’t get snotty with them! Get snotty at the chefs or manager or whoever authorized dates-for-olives, but not at the customer who didn’t want the olives!

“Do you want us to make you a new one without the olives?” asked the waitress, extremely put out. “I’m really sorry,” said Sara, “but I really don’t like olives.”

It took quite a while for the new salad to come out, so by the time Sara got her meal, the rest of us were finished. We had originally planned to get dessert, but at this point we thought it best to just cut our losses and run.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t over yet.

When the check came out, I made sure to triple check it, especially with the wrong appetizers and everything. It just seemed likely there would be a mistake. There wasn’t…until she brought my credit card back. The amount charged to the credit card was not the same as what was on the bill.

“What do I do?” I asked Sara. “They couldn’t have added gratuity for just us, right? Do I just subtract the difference from the tip or something?” “You have to tell her,” said Sara. I really didn’t want to. I mean, I didn’t want more grief, I just wanted to get out of there.

The waitress was apologetic and made jokes about our table being the “cursed” table, but honestly, this was a bridge too far. It took her FOREVER to correct the bill. The kids were getting squirrely, and we were feeling very frustrated. I don’t really understand why we didn’t jump to the top of her “to do” list at that point, if for no other reason than just to get rid of us.

It should be noted that, at no time during any of this, did a manager come over to talk to us or did anybody mention anything about taking something off the bill or anything like that. Of course, I didn’t ask to talk to a manager or anything (and I really don’t think I ever would, short of the food actually murdering a member of my party), but, I don’t know, it just seemed like it might have been appropriate.

So, despite the food being generally good (would it be petty at this point to mention the deviled eggs and potato salad were meh at best?), I can’t in good conscience recommend Founding Farmers.

2 thoughts on “Founding Farmers – A Bad Experience

  1. Dear Shane Halbach and Family,

    Words cannot describe how deeply sorry we are for fumbling SO many times during your experience with us. I assure you that what you’ve described does not meet the standard of hospitality we wish to extend to our guests, nor the professionalism. We are nothing short of mortified to read this – and we would very much like to make it up to you! If you would consider, please email me at to discuss further. You have my sincerest apologies.


    Founding Farmers Restaurant Group


  2. Pingback: A10 gets an A+ | Is this thing on?

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