words: Scott Shrake
all photos: Dakota Fine
Move over, America’s Next Top Georgetown Student! There’s a new competition-show refugee in town, and he’s 50% Spikier!
Evangelos “Spike” Mendelsohn, one of the contestants on the recently ended season of Bravo’s Top Chef, is the celeb-real-ity draw at Good Stuff Eatery (303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE on Capitol Hill). The upscale burger-centric lunch spot will grand-open TODAY, with a “red-carpet” event July 14, when some of the other chefs from Top Chef: Chicago will stop by to support their compatriot. I went to the preview last week.
Good Stuff is a family affair from soup to nuts, if you will. The name is a tribute to Spike’s grandfather Sunny, who apparently used the words “good stuff” to describe most things. Spike’s cool sister Micheline is director of marketing, his parents own it, his mother’s cousin is VP, Spike’s best friend Mike is the general manager…
They’re a nice family. Not quite as nice as my family, because I’m from the Midwest (they’re Greeks from “Muntreal”), but pretty darned nice.
“I’d like to meet the chef that thinks he can make it on his own,” Spike says endearingly.
The dad is one of those loud, gregarious guys that tells corny jokes to the whole room.
The mom is one of those distracted-seeming people, but nice. When you meet her, you suddenly understand Spike.
They quarrel in front of journalists, which is fun. First there was an issue about where the plastic forks were. Then Spike sat us down and started his spiel, only to be interrupted from under the balcony by his mom loudly demanding that the music be turned down. (His mom is his boss!) Spike shouted, “Mom, can you not yell while I’m trying to have a press conference!”
By the way, I’m watching Intervention as I write this.
This restaurant had been in the works long before Spike was even selected for Top Chef. It looks to me like Spike moved to D.C. to be closer to his family and help them out with this project (and lend his famous-ish face, which, let’s face it, is a smart plan: How much media would have covered this preview without him there?).
I don’t eat red meat, because it’s gross, but I decided to have a burger anyway. I chose “Spike’s Five-Napkin,” a big rare hamburger with a fried egg (“Put a fried egg on anything and I’ll eat it,” Spike laughs) and bacon on top, served on a toasted Pennsylvania Dutch bun schmiered with infused mayo. It was more like Spike’s 55-Napkin, but I’m a slob.
As a manorexic, I didn’t want fries, but when Spike called my name to come get my burger, he put some on the plate anyway: Spike’s Village Fries (“topped with fresh thyme, rosemary, and cracked pepper”) made with some secret potato the name of which Evangelos would not reveal.
As I tucked in to the burger, I announced to my table-mates, “I’m no Tom Colicchio, but I’ll try.” No one got it.
The tables are outfitted with Sriracha hot chili sauce, malt vinegar, and sea salt; infused mayos available: Old Bay, Chipotle, Sriracha.
To wash down the blondie I sampled for dessert, I had the Toasted Marshmallow Shake, topped with two of the titular singed puffs. (Greek yogurt is added to counteract the sweetness of the shake.) I could only drink half, it was very rich.
They offer salads (various Iceberg Lettuce Wedges), but they’re topped with onion rings, LOL. Not exactly South Beach Diet-approved, this place. But: The menu offers the option to “shun the bun” and add a meat patty to your Wedge, which is SBD-esque. They use local ingredients, too, they dutifully informed us. Low prices, too, y’all! This isn’t “gourmet burger” time. Under six bucks for a burg (a note fo hope for the non-red meat eaters: they WILL offer vegetarian burgers and turkey burgers too).
Spike emphasized that they are sticking to classics and focusing on perfecting technique.
Décor: “Modern farm house.” Which means? Shabby Chic faux-distressed floors with wide planks and “worn-off” white paint. Titanium diner chairs. Nice bathrooms. Flat-screen TVs on the second floor. Spike’s mom asked us if we liked the interior and everyone nodded.
Spike is moving here from New York. He just got a place in the Lincoln Park section of D.C., and he and his family are planning to franchise Good Stuff Eatery if it takes off. There’s one in Rosslyn, and the next location is slated for next year on 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan and will focus on dinnertime.
The verdict on Good Stuff Eatery: I feel love, I do. I like Spike, he’s earnest and unpretentious in real life. His family’s been in the food business since 1918, and they seem wholesomely ambitious and eager to please and to listen. Try them.
View article with full photos online HERE.
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