Wed 2 Jul 2008
Every milliner’s favorite Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn opened the doors of Good Stuff Eatery tonight for the friends and family tasting. We we were lucky enough to score an invite and get a sneak peek at some of the menu items Spike and Mike discussed with us a few weeks ago. (Double bonus, our buddy Jon from So Good was there to enjoy the fry and burger sampling with us.)
The evening’s menu (right) wasn’t comprehensive, but it was a solid start. The Blazin’ Barn, Spike’s banh mi-influenced burger, was available and definitely the hot item of the night. This is easily the most buzzed about burger on the menu and with good reason. It was perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and seasoned with daikon, carrots, cilantro and a kickin’ spicy mayo.
The dipping bar, where you can load up on any of four homemade mayos - Old Bay, chipotle, mango and sriracha – was another highlight. While we were fans of the local shout out for Old Bay, the sriracha and mango were the two biggest standouts. The Village Fries which are tossed in thyme, rosemary and pepper made for a worthy side to the burgers. Cliff’s Vidalia Onion Rings, though they provided a great balance of sweet and salty, were a bit sloppy, sticking to each other and falling out of their wonderfully crispy coating.
The Soursop Hop Strawberry custard shake was good but we were really daydreaming about that mythical – and now elusive - toasted marshmallow milkshake they’ve been teasing us with. Over dinner, we chatted briefly with photographer Joe Shymanski (Hillsters may recognize him from his stand at Eastern Market) who was quick to point out the awesomeness of the toasted marshmallow shake. Way to rub salt in the wound, guy.
On the ground floor, the restaurant is laid out like its next-door neighbor, Cosi. Behind a long counter stand the fryers, the flattops and the rest of the prep space – everything is prepared in front of you. This arrangement could lead to crowding during busy lunch hours, so it will be interesting to see how Good Stuff copes with the Hill hordes they are soon to encounter. Upstairs, the space mixes sleek with cozy, offering a cushioned banquette along one wall and a large table that seats 8 in the front window. We suspect there will be some serious sharp elbows competing for seats upstairs and on the patio out front. Our favorite element might be the giant Good Stuff cowbell hanging from the ceiling. Oh and Spike et al, if you’re reading this a word to the wise: tune one of those flat screen TVs to C-SPAN when Congress is in session. Yes, it’s dull, but staffers will appreciate knowing when their boss needs to be on the floor and when they can kick back with a second beer.
Aside from the standard kinks that come with any soft opening (acknowledged with aplomb by signs at the registers), the ship seemed to be running smoothly and rarin’ to go for their official opening on Monday, July 7th. With Congress out of session until Tuesday evening, Good Stuff is likely to open to two non-stop lunch services in a row as staffers won’t be as pressed to get their food and get back to the office as they may be when the boss is in town. Spike, his family and their team seem to welcome the challenge.
Everything we sampled this evening was good, but we hope to see new items added to the menu soon. The Blazin’ Barn burger jumps off the menu as a new and interesting option, leaving other burgers in the dust. Compared to this fun take on an American classic (and, quite frankly, the type of creation you’d expect from a Top Cheftestant) items like the Smokehouse, 5-Napkin and the Big Stuff Bacon Meltdown seem to place the emphasis on “humongous” rather than “innovative.” As the restaurant grows and evolves, we hope to see more fresh burger concepts. The Good Stuffers are certainly on the right track.
Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003
Opens July 7th