Founding Farmers Opens in Tysons Today
The space inside the ground floor of the nondescript office building at 1800 Tysons Blvd., McLean, just a block from Tysons II Galleria, was abuzz Wednesday as cooks and servers at the new Founding Farmers restaurant went through their final practice run to prepare for today’s opening.
This is the largest of the three Founding Farmers restaurants with 12,000-square-feet that seats about 270 and 75 people working in the kitchen alone. The sprawling space is was designed like a modern Virginia farmhouse by D.C.’s GrizForm Design Architects with a barn, sun tea room, living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom.
The bar is the “barn” with actual wooden barn beams over the U-shaped bar that seats 28. About 30 more can be seated in booths. All 12 taps will exclusively serve a rotating list of Virginia drafts. And the rye whisky and gin come from Copper Fox Distillery made just down the road in Sperryville, Va. There’s even a “phone booth” with no actual phone by outlets for your cell phone if you need to make a private call.
The front “sun porch” features community tables and a working larder area with shelves stocked with pickled vegetables and spices that will be used in the kitchen. Other shelves are stocked with jars of sun tea. When it’s cloudy, the shelves are outfitted with artificial grow lights to mimic the sun’s rays. From 7-10 a.m. weekdays, the room will be transformed into a grab-and-go station, where people can pick up fruit, pastries, yogurt, coffee and other breakfast items on their way to the office or Metro. On the weekend, there will be an all-you-can-eat Farmers Market buffet brunch set up in its place.
The “dining room” includes blue checked banquettes resembling couches, padded beige polka dotted chairs and hanging lamps with a “family tree” sculpture in the middle.Up a few steps you enter the “kitchen” with tiled floor, wooden tables and chairs, and basket lights hanging from the ceiling and lights made out of spoons in the booths. There’s also a wall covered in animal-shape cookie cutters. The “dining room” features orange banquettes, the same polka dotted chairs from downstairs and a hand-painted mural of flowering trees with fairies, dragons, and a monkey pouring from a teapot for a mouse. Finally, the “bedroom” features huge circular booths that seat up to eight and will eventually be enveloped by curtains to mimic a boudoir.
Diners will find flagship dishes such as the fried green tomatoes, Yankee pot roast, meatloaf and chicken pot pie, but about 35 percent of the dishes from executive chef Anthony Higdon’s scratch kitchen scratch-made dishes (only ice cream is stored in a freezer and fresh deliveries arrive Monday through Saturday) are specific to Tysons. There’s also an in-house pastry shop and butchery, where a butcher breaks down the sides of beef. All the breads, buns and English muffins are made at sister restaurant Farmers Fishers Bakers 24-hour Georgetown bakery. The kitchen is even churning its own butter and making its own mayonnaise.
Among the new items are fried eggplant marinara with sliced eggplant layers between marinara and mushroom sauces topped with herb goat cheese; farro arugula salad with greens, dried fruit and edamame in a light lemon-ginger vinaigrette; garlic Romano baked oysters with butter; porchetta with hearth-cooked pork served on top of a bed of parsnip puree with rapini, cannelini beans and a mustard seed butter drizzle; and Grandma Bev’s ham cookie spread farm bread on toasted house-made farm bread with peanut butter spread and Virginia ham topped with salt and pepper and drizzled with maple syrup.
While the D.C. and Potomac, Md., locations are known for their fried chicken and waffles, Tysons has replaced with waffle with a Jefferson donut, its version of a cronut. Also new are oysters from Rappahannock Oysters served as shooters, which come in flavors like cucumber mint with sparkling wine, ginger grapefruit with gin and coconut pineapple with rum with the oysters on the half-shell and the alcohol on the side. For dessert, in addition to Farmer Ellen’s carrot cake, you’ll find a 21-layer crepe cake and cobblers.
Compass Coffee supplies the coffee, which is dispensed from a new automated pour-over system. And the Tysons location will also a cold-pressed “farm health” juice cleanse. Beverage director Jon Arroyo has come up with a series of six juices such as the “Roger Rabbit” with apple, carrot, pear and lemon juice or the “Shake & Date” with almonds, dates, cinnamon, agave, water, vanilla extract and sea salt. The cleanses are $10 each or can be ordered for $65 a day, up to three days. To reserve they daily cleanse, you’ll have to order online at least two days notice, and pick-up will be available on weekdays only..New cocktails include the “Tysons Julep” and “Barnyard Gin Rickey.”
The Founding Farmers brand is owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, a farmers’ co-op in North Dakota, and operated by Farmers Restaurant Group. Other Tysons’ investors include the National Farmers Union. The Tysons restaurant is open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday, 9 a.m.-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. Weekdays, breakfast is served from 7-11 a.m. followed by the lunch/dinner menu The Farmers Market Buffet brunch is served from 9 a.m.-2 pm. weekends and Monday holidays with lunch/dinner beginning at 2 p.m. those days. Free validated parking is available in the hourly, self-park garage next door.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.