You may remember Will deFries’s article from last week detailing the monstrosity of hipster nonsense that is the Washington, D.C. restaurant Farmers & Distillers. Upon reading the article and performing a Google Maps search, I discovered that I was slated to get drinks with a college friend less than a block from said restaurant that very evening. Unable to pass up this wonderful opportunity to infiltrate the hipster enclave and motivated by my PGP commenter-inspired 2017 motto, #DoItForTheContent, I dragged my college friend into this establishment to see what we could see. Let me tell you, it was… something.
We walked up to the location Google Maps directed us to, and I almost laughed out loud. Instead of the red brick/stucco/some other distressed old-timey façade I expected, the front of the restaurant looks like the entrance to a K Street lobbying firm more than a reputed hipster stronghold. Don’t get me wrong, it looks nice from the outside, but gives off a distinctly corporate concrete and stainless steel vibe completely at odds with the hipster nonsense I expected. There are photos. I took them on my iPhone, I was drunk, and I’m also a terrible photographer. Deal with it.
I don’t know how I missed this in my initial reading of the WaPo article (probably a hangover), but Farmers & Distillers is part of Farmers Restaurant Group, which owns two other DC restaurants that are widely known for being basic/mainstream AF. In fact, their original restaurant, Founding Farmers, famously received a zero-star review from the Washington Post food critic last year. If you have elderly relatives coming to visit who only like southern inspired food and think Olive Garden is the epitome of class, they’ll love the Farmers restaurants (I took my own grandparents there for my grad school graduation lunch). What I’m saying is this restaurant group is known for being about as hipster/edgy as Applebees.
We walked inside, and at first I was at a loss for what could possibly be hipster about this place. First of all, the space is HUGE. Like… 300 seats huge. Just the bar and waiting areas are bigger than a lot of DC restaurants. We walked in a bit further and I looked to my left and saw the first evidence of hipster try-hard: inspiring quotations about George Washington. See below for a sample of this eye-roll inducing décor.
Wow, guys. Dancing socialite? Seems like you’re taking some liberties there, but you do you in the name of branding I guess. Anything that resembles a profound quotation that girl from my high school posts without comment on her Facebook will annoy me. Not a great start. I approached the bar area, which was lit like a South Beach night club. I don’t mean it was #lit. I mean it was actually bathed in orange glow. See below.
I looked around, recalling something in the WaPo article about a “mythical pleasure garden” with “hummingbirds and fairies.” I mean… I saw some bunched tulle hanging from the ceiling, but nothing… oh… oh. Wait… that’s actually it. I got more of a Pinterest fail vibe than a “mythical pleasure garden” vibe, especially considering that the area in question was facing huge glass windows that look out on concrete and office buildings and was situated directly next to the bar. However, I am not an artsy person, so I guess I’ll leave this one to your interpretation.
On the other side of the bar was… this thing.
I honestly have no idea what it is. My best guess is some sort of storage area or something to do with their distillery/brew operation. I thought about asking the staff, but I didn’t really feel like being subjected to a 20-minute spiel on the meaning and symbolism behind the hut, so I made eye contact with a bartender.
As promised in my comments on the original posting, I did indeed ask for a Bud Light, at which point I noticed two things: 1) All of the bartenders were wearing high-necked overalls and neckerchiefs (see below), and 2) the bar crowd could not have been more yuppy/mainstream DC. Nary a plaid shirt, man bun, or white person with dreads in sight. Any bar or restaurant that makes its employees wear themed costumes is immediately on my shit list, so -2 for that. Whew, just had some Britney/Justin denim flashbacks.
However, instead of scoffing at my generic capitalist drone palette, the bartender was actually extremely pleasant and friendly and informed me that they did not carry Bud Light. +2 for service. Having anticipated this, I requested a menu, and was handed… this.
This motherfucker was HUGE. Hand included for scale. I was taken aback as I opened the gigantic menu. Icing on the cake: this menu includes AN INTRODUCTION PAGE. Like, not a quick little one paragraph blurb or fun authentic photos of the owners. This thing is a manifesto. I didn’t need to read beyond the first sentence to know that the entire page was an homage to “farm to table” and “the concept,” so I did what anyone drunk from happy hour would do and turned the page immediately.
I’ll save you the 15 minutes it took me to look through what I estimate to be the 45-page menu and tell you that the cocktail menu is as pretentious as it gets (prices included), but the food actually looked delicious. It pains me to admit that. The friend I was with was in law school and living that no paycheck life, so we didn’t actually try any food. We did, however, order drinks. I got my favorite cocktail, a dirty gin martini (a likely predictor of the Hermes-wearing Georgetown-dwelling alcoholic I’m sure to become), and my friend got something with an absurdly long name like, “Whiskey The Way George Would Have Had It.” At $14 each. I’m a huge food snob, but really? Unless it’s wine, which I will drink at any price point, $14 cocktails better be pretty fucking top shelf.
If the name didn’t tip you off, Farmers & Distillers makes their own gin. If my martini was any indication of its usual quality, they need to give up their distilling dream and invest in some Bombay Sapphire immediately. I took my first sip and almost spit it back out. You read that correctly. I almost spit out ALCOHOL. I watched the bartender make my drink and she made it with exactly the proportions I would have, so I don’t blame her. I don’t know how to describe the taste of this beverage that was put before me other than famine and genocide.
However, I was determined to get my $14 out of this drink, so I went back and asked the bartender for more olive juice. I literally poured in enough juice to make the entire thing taste like olive brine and that was the only way I finished it in two gulps. Luckily, my friend’s whiskey cocktail was much better and actually enjoyable, but still not $14 worth.
At that point, we decided to bail and head to the nearest sports bar around the corner to chow down on some loaded tater tots and $5 wine. Before you panic, YES, I got a picture of the damn man bun. It was just as obnoxious in person as it was in the original article.
If I had to summarize the hipster level of the restaurant, I would say that it’s only hipster in the sense that it is trying SO hard to be hipster. If they came out and just said, “hey guys, this is the same basic restaurant as our other two basic restaurants, but now we want to make our own liquor,” I could almost respect them for just wanting to turn a profit. While I would be interested in trying their food and the service was actually great, this is not going to make my bar rotation. The concept that someone’s suburban dad from Ohio thinks is “hipster” based on a segment he once saw on Fox News (along with the terrible gin) left a bad taste in my mouth..