After two and a half years in the making, Dan Simons — the restaurateur behind the wildly popular Founding Farmers — is finally opening his brand new concept, Farmers & Distillers, in Washington, D.C.’s Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. It’s the fifth restaurant from the Farmers Restaurant Group, which owns three locations of Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers.
An astounding 7,000 diners have already booked reservations for Farmers & Distillers first six days of business.
Farmers & Distillers is located in a sprawling 12,000-square-foot space in the northern reaches of Chinatown; the restaurant boasts 310 seats and employs about 200 staffers, making it the biggest restaurant in the group’s portfolio. Each area is a unique microclimate inspired by some aspect of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate – from the Pleasure Garden by the bar replete with a canopy of floral-inspired lighting to the Sunshine & Honey dining room, which is aglow with honeycomb accents.
The restaurant’s main menu is characteristically ambitious and contains no crossover from their other eateries. There are plenty of nods to the neighborhood, including sections devoted to Chinatown classics, such as dumplings, shaobing (Chinese flatbread), spring rolls, and hand-pulled noodles. As a tip of the hat to the German immigrants that used to make the surrounding area their home, there is pork schnitzel and other items.
Perhaps the grandest component to the concept is the on-site distillery, Founding Spirits, which produces vodka and amaro. The spirits team bought a column still a year ago and temporarily installed it offsite, so they could fine-tune the device and the recipe. After many false starts and some major adjustments, they finally arrived at a premium process and product. Now the still – nicknamed Caroline, because “she’s so sweet,” says Simons – sits in a special room at Farmers & Distillers with peek-a-boo windows looking in from the bar area and the street. Once the operation is up and running, Arroyo plans to finish the restaurant’s proprietary gin in the still and blend their rye on site as well.
Here, we ask Simons all about the latest concept, house-made booze, and moving into a new neighborhood. [Read more…]