Update: Now with the magic of citizen photojournalism, after the jump!
Happened to be Eastern Market last night, eating sushi and people-watching. For the five of you who happen to be reading this and not personally related to me, Good Stuff Eatery, the new burger/shake counter own by Top Chef runner-up and hat aficionado Spike Mendelsohn, opened in Capitol Hill on July 17th. (See the red-carpet opener, complete with fellow “Cheftestants” Lisa, Antonia and Stephanie, here). Reviews have been mixed, with some people chalking it up to recent-opening jitters and others being somewhat less charitable (the comments in the previous post run the whole gamut).
We weren’t looking for burgers, but we thought, “Why not ruin a nice light meal with a couple of milkshakes,” milkshakes being the one thing that everyone seems to complement at Good Stuff. So we walked over – the restaurant is at 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, down the block from Tune Inn, Hawk and Dove and Pour House – and hopped in line. Yes, I said line. They actually hold a line outside the door, which is a little annoying – “are they doing it to drum up buzz?” We wondered – and there was still another line inside. It is, however, a brand new restaurant in a town where a little celebrity goes a long way (see red carpet opening party for a burger joint), so maybe a little crowd was to be expected. We watched various bocce teams, all in their various color coordinated team T-shirts and talked about the previous season of Top Chef; “If Spike’s inside, how much will you give me to knock off his stupid hat?” I joked.
So we got inside and I must say the food looked fantastic. The burgers all looked great, and even the veggie burger, involving panko-crusted portabellos, sounded good – always a difficult feat. An item called Spike’s Fries (yes, Spike has his name all over the menu in a sign of budding megalomania), which were sprikled with rosemary, thyme and cracked pepper, were available for taste; even cold, they were delicious.
And the shakes! I had a “Milky Way Malt”: a combination of vanilla ice cream, fudge, caramel and crushed malted milk balls, which was cold, creamy and the perfect consistency: just thin enough to drink through a straw, but not melty. The real star of the milkshakes was my friend’s “Toasted Marshmallow.” It was completely different than any marshmallow flavored thing I’ve ever had, tasting almost exactly like campfire toasted marshmallows. No fluffernutter here.
So, as always, I have a few complaints. The place seems kind of designed to maximize the time you spend looking around and admiring the restaurant, the food, the other people in line. Yes, Spike, we get it, you’re so hot right now. Following from that, the menu is almost irrepressibly twee. The “Vegetarians Are People Too ‘Shroom Burger?” “We like to call it Milk-Ice-Gelato-Custard-Cream?” Ugh. But hey, if the man can keep spinning milkshakes like what I had, looks like I’ll have to brave the commute and the lines to give this place a real write up soon.
Remember my comment about Spike and his hat? Well I had the opportunity to knock it off after all. So we walk in to Good Stuff, and who do we see, standing right with the line cooks (he was working as the caller), but Spike himself. Yes, he was wearing a hat. I was surprised. I guess in the grand scheme he’s not actually a celebrity chef, and so just opening a restaurant with his name on it doesn’t mean as much as a Tom Colicchio backed Craftsteak or something, but still, its nice to see a semi-famous face willing to work in the trenches.
But does that mean I knocked the guy’s hat off? Unfortunately, no. As someone who has pretty much transferred his awkward fanboy love for sci-fi wholesale over to food, I wasn’t about to mess with a “real celebrity.” And anyway, he seemed like a nice guy, bantering with customers and his fellow line cooks; after a smile and a nod in our direction, my foodie friend said excitedly, “I think we just had a moment!!” Consensus was, it was a “Thank you for buying my milkshakes now stop staring at me,” type moment.
One thought: if you wear a Red Stripe T-shirt and drink Red Stripe Beer, as Spike was, is this some sort of sneaky back-door endorsement? We gave 60-40 probability it was.
And with no further ado, a couple of awkward cell phone pics I snapped of the man himself, DC food personality Spike Mendelsohn. All major elements of his personality are viewable: the hat, the beard, the Red Stripe T-shirt and beer combo. Enjoy.