Founding Farmers is kind of place that lefties like me love to support. It advertises itself as a restaurant owned by a collective of independent farmers dedicated to sustainable agriculture. “Collective,” “Independent:” My left-libertarian heart just swelled and burst. Whisper “sustainable,” and I’m reanimated.
Inside this location on the corner of 19th and Penn lies a hip, crowded, and easy on the eyes eatery. Word to the wise: make reservations.
I came here on Sunday with my imaginary Che beret and upturned fork piercing the sky knowing full well what I was going to have for the first time: chicken and waffles. It’s one of those food combinations that either intrigues you or causes the gag reflex to kick in. I thought it was a quintessentially Southern cuisine but recently discovered, via chef Marcus Samuelson’s Food Network special, “Savoring Harlem,” that its roots are in Upper Manhattan.
But first things first: when you go to brunch, you need alcohol, so I ordered a $12 Bloody Mary that was pretty damn good. I asked for it spicy and it came with a beautiful crust of red-hot seasoning spooning the rim of the glass. My only complaint is if you take a drag from the straw, there’s an overwhelming cumin taste. Men shouldn’t drink from straws anyway, so take that plastic encumbrance and chuck it and wrap your maw around that spicy glass and suck down that sanguine juice. When everything mixes together, it’s perfect. But the most welcome surprise is that this Mary doesn’t come with an olive but a pickled string-bean, which is goddamn delicious. I’d eat a plate of these and I plan on making some at home myself.
Next came an order of FF’s fried green tomatoes. They were thick, crisp, and tart, but lacked seasoning. A little cayenne and chile powder gracing the batter would make a world of difference here. But they did come with, I believe, a greenish aioli that was delicious. (They also came with a white cream cheesy concoction that I loathed, but I detest almost all cheeses. My wife, however, thought it was good.)
But let’s get to the chicken and waffles. They came with eggs, but that’s besides the point. The most surprising thing is how the textures of the fried chicken and waffle work together. Both have a crispy shell and a chewy center and eaten together, slathered with sausage gravy, they are pure heaven. As I stuffed the odd combination into my greedy rot, I thought: “I can’t believe how good this is.” And then I was even more surprised to discover that maple syrup dribbled over the chicken and waffle is just as good. If it’s 2am and I’m drunk and hungry, I would sprout hair and grow a snout to devour this.
And on this particular Sunday, my wife and I and all the diners lining the 19th St. window got an unintended street performance from a homeless man–clearly mentally ill and suffering from some sort of OCD–who loved himself repeatedly over his sweatpants. It was one of those moments where you first smirk and laugh because you’re uncomfortable, which turns into pity, and then a realization of how lucky you are and how shitty you feel because you tried to make light of it.
Dining does that to you sometimes. You get class slapped across your face and a lot of time it doesn’t feel good. But it does make you realize that when you share a good meal with your wife, while your son drinks his bottle resting on your lap, that your petty problems are just that: petty.
All this edification and self-actualization for $71.50, which is pretty reasonable around these parts when you throw alcohol into the mix.
(And if you’re wondering, my wife had Eggs Benedict and a glass of white wine. We also “shared” a cocktail she didn’t like. She drove home.)