Finding a good place to eat out with the whole family can be hard. Sure, there are the chains with their crayons and chicken tenders for the kids and overloaded, overdressed salads, syrupy-sweet drinks, and sauced-up meats for their parents. But when you’re talking great food, great drinks, in a comfortable yet lively atmosphere, there really aren’t that many options. We found a very unlikely candidate seemingly hidden away in downtown DC near Chinatown-- Farmers & Distillers -- that we think is the best restaurant for a family meal in DC.
It is true, with “distillers” in the name, this restaurant may seem like an unlikely choice for a family meal. But once you explore the expansive menu, it is a clear winner. Their lunch and dinner menu has something for everyone. For starters, while the kids are eating the daily whirly pop kettle corn and the adults are enjoying raw oysters on the half shell, you can both fight over the sweetly addictive pork riblets or chicken wings. For your main course, the options are amazing.
Their menu includes two styles of pizza, one with a whole-wheat crust. There is an entire section with house-made pasta. Their burgers are great, and one choice includes fries and a shake using their house-made ice cream. Can they have better choices for a kid? Of course, these are all delicious enough that adults would be delighted to have them too, or share them.
Other menu choices include a host of sustainably-caught or sustainably-raised seafood, giving diners a choice of how they are served, offering even a “simple style” with just salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil. The steakhouse offerings are what you would expect but the meat is better, coming from local and regional sources, custom-aged for the chefs. They have an entire menu section dedicated to meatless choices, including cauliflower steak, roasted vegetable sandwich, and the unlikely but entirely delicious cauliflower raisin pasta.
This restaurant is our first choice because nearly everything is made from scratch, as they say, from their butter to their booze. They bake all of their bread and amazing desserts. They house-churn their ice cream, which is the creamiest in town. Since they house a DC distillery, Founding Spirits, their drinks are the most scratch-made you can get. Their cocktail menu alone is something to write about, but let’s just say, don’t miss the What about Bob? made with their own craft vodka, lime, orgeat, ginger, and cinnamon. Or another favorite, their take on the famous Negroni Sour using Founding Spirits Arroyo’s “Never Bitter” Amaro.
Not to be overlooked as a great family adventure with the family (perhaps before a visit to the National Mall) is their decadent and elaborate all you can eat brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and most holiday Mondays. (They also have breakfast during the week.) This Farmers Market Buffet Brunch includes breakfast favorites, such as French toast with real maple syrup and egg scrambles, as well as a host of hot items, including a carving table, fried chicken, and salmon, and in a salute to the neighborhood, a Dim Sum cart and some tasty Chinese food offerings. And their donuts, no words, except you must try them. Servers also hand pass items throughout the brunch, such as fried shrimp, baked oysters, eggs benedict, and pizza. The cost is $32 for adults and half that for kids over 6. For the little ones, they get anything and everything they want for free.
Farmers & Distillers also has just the right noise level for a family meal. It isn’t chaotic loud. But is it also isn’t so subdued quiet that when your 9-year erupts with a case of the giggles, or your 5-year old says very loudly (okay, pretty much shouts) “THIS PIE IS YUMMY,” the whole restaurant will turn around and stare at you. For most families, this is a gift. There is almost nothing like a family meal out where the adults can eat, talk, have good food, possibly sip a tasty craft cocktail, and get a few moments to relax, even as the little ones squirm and periodically get too loud.
Part of a small, DC-based company called the Farmers Restaurant Group that also includes Founding Farmers, the most booked restaurant in the nation on Open Table, they are co-owned by the 47,000 family farmers of the North Dakota Farmers Union and two lifelong restaurateurs, Mike Vucurevich and Dan Simons. Their mission is to bring family farmers a larger share of the food dollar, all the while serving food to make their owners proud and conserving the environment. They focus on their sources, using family farmers whenever possible, and making wholesome, delicious food from scratch that is affordable. This isn’t a high-brow farm-to-table affair. This is a good restaurant with good food and good intentions.
That Farmers & Distillers is sustainably-run is no surprise. It is part of their Everything Matters operations. They say they are in it for the long haul, just like their farmer owners, thinking forward. When you eat at Farmers & Distillers, you can feel good about the food you are getting and the booth where you are seated, which was likely made by a local furniture maker. You can even talk to your kids about it, or wander around and look at the original art, which includes a not-to-be missed portrait of our first president with a man bun.
There are so many reasons we think Farmers & Distillers is the best place in DC for a family meal, whether just your crew or extended to other relatives and friends. Grab a reservation and let us know if you agree that Farmers & Distillers is a great family restaurant.