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Reviewer gives zero stars to D.C. restaurant backed by ND Farmers Union

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A restaurant backed by the North Dakota Farmers Union got some unwanted press recently, ripped apart in a zero-star review by the Washington Post, which called it a "joke."...

WASHINGTON, D.C.-A restaurant backed by the North Dakota Farmers Union got some unwanted press recently, ripped apart in a zero-star review by the Washington Post, which called it a "joke."

Washington Post restaurant reviewer Tom Sietsema, who grew up in rural Minnesota, found little to like at the "mega-popular" eatery.

Sietsema dined there six times before penning his review, finding a doughy cornbread skillet, tiny chicken wings, gummy pasta and slices of mushroom loaf he said lead him to "believe salt must be a vegetable."

He gave the restaurant zero stars, calling it a "sad state of affairs," with bargain prices that make the diner realize they'd rather pay more for better food somewhere else.

The restaurant, opened in 2008, is associated with a company whose main investor is the Farmers Union.

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It's seen success, with diners packing the restaurant just a couple blocks west of the White House, one of the "most innovative and successful culinary ventures," in the city, its website said.

In a response posted on the restaurant's Facebook page after the scathing review, it said that "everyone is entitled to their own opinion," noting they served 575,000 guests last year at the D.C. location.

Founding Farmers has been profitable and the winner of honors, named one of the nation's 50 best new restaurants in 2009 by Travel+Leisure magazine and one of the top 100 best restaurants by Washingtonian Magazine that year.

Two other restaurants in the chain are located at Tysons, Va., and Potomac, Md. There's a "sister restaurant" called Farmers Fishers Bakers in Washington, too.

The Farmers Union, which was founded in 1927, is the largest general farm organization in North Dakota, with more than 40,000 "member families," its website said. They provide education, services, events and support legislation pertaining to agriculture.

Sietsema, writing in his review, found only one bright spot: the drinks. He advocated for ordering a Sazerac, which would "keep you much better company than the cooking."

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