The Hot Plate: Good Stuff Eatery Aims to Be New Burger King

Posted July 15, 2008 at 4:37pm

A farmhouse burger dripping with cheddar and Muenster cheese, caramelized onions and a helping of mushrooms smothered in sauce — this is just one of the guilty pleasures to be found at the new Hill hot spot Good Stuff Eatery.

[IMGCAP(1)]Sitting on the corner of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, the much-anticipated restaurant run by “Top Chef” contestant Spike Mendelsohn and his family opened last week. Large crowds of hungry Hill staffers lined up to try the chef’s burgers and fries. With a lack of fast-food options on the House side, who can blame them? Although Mendelsohn’s burgers, made with fresh local-bought ingredients, trump McDonald’s any day.

Good Stuff Eatery offers 11 different burgers, priced from $5.49 to $7.69 and topped with everything from avocado to chili to pickled daikon. Turkey burgers are available for the health conscious and mushroom burgers for vegetarians. Some of the more creative offerings include Spike’s 5 Napkin, the chef’s eponymous burger, and Colletti’s Smokehouse burger, named for General Manager Mike Colletti.

The 5 Napkin consists of a meat patty, fresh cheese, maple bacon, a fried egg and the restaurant’s trademark Good Stuff Sauce tucked into a brioche bun. Upon biting into it, the yolk runs all over the burger — and your hands — giving it a unique taste and the perfect amount of moisture. Be warned: True to its name, there is no graceful way to eat this burger. Grease and yolk drip off the patty as your teeth cut through strips of crisp bacon. The only downside to the 5 Napkin is that after the yolk has been eaten the rest of the burger can taste a little dry. As delicious as the burger is, beware that all that grease can sit heavy in your stomach.

The Colletti Smokehouse features bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar, fried Vidalia onion rings and chipotle barbecue sauce. Almost too large to get your mouth around, the burger is wonderfully greasy and flavorful. Where the 5 Napkin can get dry, the Smokehouse oozes with flavor.

Side options of hand-cut fries, onion rings and chili are available. The fries are wonderfully seasoned, though dipping in the choice of dips was a challenge because the fries were on the stubby side. If you’re looking to splurge, the hand-spun shakes are the way to go. Available in four flavors — toasted marshmallow, milky way malt, d-lechable leche and soursop hop strawberry — and costing $5.25 each, the shakes are rich and thick. The unusual toasted marshmallow is not overwhelmingly sweet and features giant marshmallows floating in the ice cream. There are also floats, cones and sundaes — and beer, bottled and on tap.

For those who are looking for a healthy option at this burger joint, four wedge salads are offered at $6.89. The classic, Greek, Caesar and ensalada, all made with iceberg lettuce, are served with cornbread, though customers can substitute a beef or turkey patty or a stuffed mushroom in place of the cornbread for an extra $2.89.

Customers who visit the farmhouse-themed restaurant order at the counter, pay and then pick up their food and carry it to a table. Mendelsohn has said that he hopes to have a seven-minute turnaround time from when customers order to when they receive their meal; that goal may take some time to reach. When Hot Plate stopped by, it took about 17 minutes to get lunch during the midday rush and one order was incorrect. On the plus side, patrons are given a pager that lets them know when their order is ready, allowing them to find a seat rather than hover over the pickup area.

On the second visit to Good Stuff Eatery, Harvey Mendelsohn, one of the co-owners and Spike’s father, was stationed at the door ushering people in, in pairs. He promised guests would not have to wait outside for more than five minutes and kept his word. It certainly made the restaurant less crowded, though waiting in the heat isn’t always fun. Once inside, the wait still exceeded 20 minutes.

The service at the restaurant was good considering it had only been open for two days when Hot Plate first dropped by. Signs warning that the staff, several of them members of the Mendelsohn family, was in training adorned the registers, reminding patrons to be patient. While those working the pickup area appeared to be stressed and a bit slow to sort the orders, there was minimal yelling or confusion in the open-air kitchen as orders were barked down the line. It should be noted that on Hot Plate’s second visit the restaurant had been open for four days and the line cooks were already joking with regulars.

If you order a burger, fries and milkshake you’re going to spend at least $13, and that’s for the basics. While the food is good, that’s a hefty price for a burger joint.

Good Stuff Eatery is a welcome addition to the Pennsylvania Avenue strip. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. making it a great lunch or late-night option. Next time you have a hankering for a milkshake or a juicy burger, stop by and indulge.