Farmers Restaurant Group finds a new way to emphasize local food and drink with the upcoming opening of Farmers and Distillers, a massive, 12,000 square foot combination restaurant and distillery in the Mt. Vernon Triangle neighborhood in D.C.
Making their own spirits isn’t completely new to the restaurant group — for years, the group behind Founding Farmers and its related restaurants has partnered with Virginia’s Copper Fox Distillery to produce its own gin and whiskey. That partnership will continue, but the company will age and finish both products at their new place at 600 Massachussetts Ave. NW, explained founder Dan Simons. “We’re really taking this to the next level,” said Simons — that means vodka and amaro will be produced entirely on site at the new destination, with potential for other micro-batch products as well.
The new neighborhood gives the company a presence on the East side of the city, since they already run restaurants in Foggy Bottom and Georgetown. The entire cocktail list, naturally, is built around the company’s spirit offerings. Come February, they’ll offer tours and tastings of the operation. Retail sales will begin upon the Dec. 13 opening, as long as all permitting comes together.
A look inside the building shows several individual pockets of space. A retail and merchandising area includes a museum-style timeline chronicling the company’s distilling efforts. There’s an elevated “treehouse” room in the center of the restaurant that provides another focal point, “just because I think everyone should have a treehouse,” joked Simon. Other design touches include big bronze pineapples for shared drinks, and even an eight foot-tall alpaca figured nicknamed Tipsy. There are several private dining areas, too, and local artists are prominently featured in gallery fashion.
The concept behind the food for the restaurant is a little New Age-y: Simon describes it as imagining the spirit of George Washington traveling through the centuries, from a culinary perspective. That means nods to the President’s time at Mount Vernon, and culinary influences from the international communities that have lived in the D.C. neighborhoods over the years, from the Chinese community to German immigrants. That means everything from dumplings to schnitzel prepared in farm-to-table fashion (Simons recommends the sweet potato spring roll, a “yummy crazy flavor carnival in your mouth”).
Expectations are high for the company, which is still coming off a zero star review for its original restaurant from critic Tom Sietsema last summer (Simons said while the review was on his mind for much of this year, it didn’t directly influence any menu offerings for Farmers & Distillers). Though Founding Farmers has built a reputation on comfort food, Farmers & Distillers will have lighter options as well, like a rainbow salad with carrot and squash dressing. Its morning full breakfast and grab-and-go First Bake options will be offered, too, and they’ve partnered with D.C.’s Compass Coffee to up their coffee game.