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Reservations Recommended

Founding Farmers: All Green

Hype and media drama notwithstanding, DC’s newest and greenest restaurant has finally opened with lunchtime crowds and call-ahead reservations making this the hottest ticket in town. Perhaps it’s the restaurant’s strategic location: it can’t hurt being sited in the ground floor of the International Monetary Fund headquarters building. Or perhaps that here’s a place that walks the walk and cooks the vittles of true Americana, the kinds of dishes that have you yearning for Granny’s fare: fried green tomatoes, chicken potpie, meatloaf, and pot roast are just several of the goodies tucked into the lengthy menu.

More importantly, don’t automatically think “stodgy eats.” Granny might not have made the grade as a big-city cook, but this chef does. Besides the comfort-food dishes — the flaky, buttery crust that seals in the creamed chicken-and-veggie filling earns this potpie a golden fork — you’ll find plenty that’s contemporary Americana. Take the entrée-sized fried chicken salad, a dish that pairs chopped greens and nuggets of applewood-smoked bacon and avocado with shreds of Cheddar cheese and strips of crispy chicken; the chef gets it right with the chicken – not greasy yet crunchy, the ultimate fried chicken heaven. Next visit, why not order the signature Southern pan-fried chicken with cream gravy and waffles, and — believe it or not — a side of mac ‘n cheese. You might OD on cholesterol, but enjoy every mouthful on the way.

Or consider some of the other menu options: Herb-rubbed roasted pork chop, braised beef short ribs, and a whopping 24-ounce “cowboy” steak that’s spice-rubbed before grilling. Looking for pasta? The kitchen makes its own using top-grade “00” flour and inspired by none other than Thomas Jefferson. And naturally, lighter fare includes a series of sandwiches, such as grilled artisanal cheese with tomato soup, a classic Reuben with slaw, and an egg salad spread on a bun.

You may come to Founding Farmers for the food alone. But if you are among the environmentally conscientious, you’ll find an ethical incentive to support this place. It’s gone totally green, in the kitchen, on the table, in the décor. And the restaurant is LEED certified.* The place? Founding Farmers, the hottest, hippest, and possibly most crowded restaurant in DC.

All of it should send a tingle up your leg, as one of TV’s “talking heads” muttered recently. Indeed, the only shortcomings I found are these: As of this printing, the kitchen does not send out a gratis basket of yummy country biscuits, or any bread at all. Instead, you’ll need to order from the “flatbreads” options, delicious but a bit pricey. Recommended: The prosciutto with fig and mascarpone or the creamy brie with onion jam and sliced organic apples.

As for sweets, you’ll probably yearn to wind up the meal with a slice of cheesecake or a homey apple turnover or a wedge of red velvet cake. Nostalgia all, true, but at least with the lemon meringue pie, Granny would win the baking contest. This restaurant’s version comes with a pale, creamy filling and no billowing, slightly browned meringue topping, making this a pale edition of that old-time pie.

*LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system developed by the US Green Building Council setting standards for environmentally sustainable construction. These standards have been followed by Founding Farmers down to the last plank of wood flooring downstairs. As their press release informs, the owners incorporated the wood flooring from a textile mill in Georgia and the white-washed wood at the front door from the wall of a razed barn in West Virginia. Further, they are proud to tell us, about 70 percent of their construction waste did not end up in a landfill somewhere; nor does any of their restaurant waste, which gets recycled and/or composted.

Founding Farmers /1924 Penn. Ave., NW; (202) 822-8783. Breakfast: Mon.-Fri., 8-11am. Lunch & Dinner: Mon.-Wed., 11am-10pm; Thu. & Fri. to 11pm; Sat., 4-11pm. Bar & Late Night Menu: Fri. & Sat., 11pm-12mid. Sun.: brunch, 10am-2pm; lunch/dinner, 2-9pm. Entrée price range: $13-$35.

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Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.