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Farmers Union Has D.C. Diners Figured Out | Meal Ticket

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Patrons looks at menus in the dining room of Farmers Fishers Bakers restaurant on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Back on K Street, Farmers & Fishers chugged along until Washington Harbour got flooded in early 2011, a catastrophic event that wiped out many businesses. Against all odds, including market forces and, apparently, acts of god, the NDFU battled back, resurrecting the troubled space into Farmers Fishers Bakers.

Casting a Wide Net

“This is a great place to go when you have a lot of personalities to please. Think of it as a sophisticated Cheesecake Factory,” one FFB fan gushed online.

His choice of superlatives aside, FFB does provide a lot of options.

Another professional critic and I were both initially mystified by the “farmhouse sushi” offerings. The name is clearly a marketing gimmick, as Warrilow explained the underlying fish “comes from all over.” The goal is sustainable, but the restaurant keeps its options open.

The menu was developed by executive sushi chef Thomas Park, a veteran who honed his craft in Austin (Uchi + Uchiko) and who knows his stuff. One house specialty (Park’s favorite) reveals honey-glazed pork belly nestled amid roasted fennel and savory crumbled bacon. The thick, rich belly is terrific, a pickled complement quite zesty.

The pizza program is another new addition, though not an entirely unexpected one given all the brick oven operations dotting the DMV. But FFB did not take the easy route.

“We purposely did not want to do what everyone else in the pizza world is doing,” Warrilow said of the decision to not replicate the Neapolitan pies D.C. diners feverishly seek out. FFB’s pies are fashioned from high-gluten pizza flour (American style) or hard winter-wheat bread flour (farmers style), both of which produce distinctly delicious results.

The Gardener’s Campari sports a fluffy, but not-quite-deep-dish, crust that’s lightly scorched, moderately floppy and easily foldable. The combination of piquant goat cheese, buttery pancetta and extra bitter Campari reduction is amazingly light, complex and magical from bite to bite.

A Detroit Red Top proved equally captivating, summoning a boxy, Sicilian-style offering with cheese baked into the springy crust and rivers of tangy tomato sauce coursing throughout.

Fellow carnivores were sated by porcine-propelled jambalayas (Mad Pig boasts bacon, pulled pork, more belly and Andouille sausage), overly generous chicken constructs (bone-in masterpiece features deep-fried breast accented by one, skyward-reaching wing; picnic-worthy platter heaps honey-stung pieces of succulent bird atop bacon-spiked sweet peas and fork-clinging grits).

Warrilow declined to comment on whether additional restaurants are in the works, but she did not rule out further expansion.

Meanwhile, “The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink,” by D.C. food scribe Nevin Martell, is out this fall.

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