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In another era, at another restaurant, a zero-star review might kill a business.
But apparently not Founding Farmers.
Following Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema‘s takedown of the most booked restaurant on OpenTable, I decided to make a reservation for noon today. Except that I couldn’t—the place was fully booked until 1 p.m.
In fact, a lot of people seemed to oblivious or ambivalent (or morbidly curious?) about Sietsema’s warnings against Founding Farmers. As of yesterday evening, OpenTable noted that the downtown location had already been booked 942 times that day. For comparison, Le Diplomate had been booked 413 times.
Founding Farmers has used this popularity as a retort to Sietsema’s criticisms. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page, before going on to boast about the 575,000 guests it served last year and that 95 percent of diners on OpenTable say they would recommend the place to a friend.
But maybe all these people wouldn’t actually show up when they read about “the swamp posing as shrimp and grits” and “garbage disposal” acoustics?
When I arrived for lunch, I had to elbow past a crowd to get to the host stand. I counted no fewer than 25 people standing and waiting for a table. The dining room and bar were completely full. The crowds reminded me slightly of the opening of Momofuku (which by the way, was not nearly as busy during lunch earlier this week).
As for an overall opinion on the restaurant, I’ll leave that to Sietsema (the man went six times, after all!). But I will share this video of the layer of film on the shrimp and grits that I ordered, “fresh” from the kitchen:
When the check came, I couldn’t help but ask our server if he’d read the review and what he thought of it.
“It’s something personal between him and the restaurant,” he said. “It’s still full, so his bad.”