Monday, November 19, 2012

Good Stuff Eatery Food Review

Not So Great Stuff

Perhaps I shouldn't grade both of Spike Mendelsohn's Capitol Hill eateries on the same day. It stands to reason that a bad day can pass through walls, and since Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza stand side by side on the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE...

It wouldn't be fair to judge Good Stuff Eatery to the same low standards as its younger sibling: That's because the customer service and atmosphere is far superior at the former. There's a buzz inside Good Stuff Eatery that's hard to explain. Perhaps it's the bolts of activity resonating from the visible grill line, where Mendelsohn's soldiers bust butts doling out hundreds of burgers an hour. Whatever it is, I found it agreeable. Ditto for the customer service which was truly top notch. My order was prepared quickly (too quickly?) and I was upstairs, sitting down to eat in no time.

Good Stuff Eatery is nice to look at, and downright clean. Tables are outfitted with malt vinegar, sea salt and Sriracha sauce, as well as napkins (which you'll need a lot of... more on that later.) Hands down, the best tableside condiments in town.

The food, on the other hand was a bit of a let down. I've had lunch here a number of times since it opened in July 2008, and today's lunch ranks as the worst one yet. I'm a huge fan of the Good Stuff Sauce that makes ketchup a thing of the past, as far as I'm concerned; and the burgers here are generally juicy and delicious (though a little on the small side.) Today's Farmhouse Burger (the basic, don't miss out on a number of other, decidedly more creative alternatives) was nothing to write home about. When you wrap your burger in paper that reads "delicious" over and over again, you better make a really good burger. This one wasn't.

For starters, the bun was cold (spared the grill, to my chagrin) and didn't hold up well to the extra grease from the burger itself. My burger started to fall apart after just two bites. Though properly cooked and seasoned, I was disappointed to find my burger cold, only minutes removed from the grill. Combined with the cold bun, this made for even further disappointment. It was still tasty, but not up to Spike's normally higher standards (especially when you consider Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" was blaring from the Sirius radio above. Please lower the volume guys.)

The fries are handcut (true) but too tiny to grasp properly: Where's a spoon when you really need one? They begged for salt and tasted only of oil (You should have seen the grease-soaked container they were served in.) My fountain drink (Coke Zero) was flat and tasted soapy. A burger, soda and snack-size fries cost me $10.20 ($11.32 with tax and their ridiculous "envirocharge" of $.10) That's a bit steep, considering the amount of food you're getting, but I doubt anyone on the Hill is complaining about it. Speaking of which, is there a more unfriendly customer than the folks who frequent this block? If I had a dime for every person I overheard bragging about million dollar deals on their pre-paid cell phones, I probably wouldn't have noticed the aforementioned envirocharge (Spike, you just gotta get rid of that.)

I'm going to wait a few months before giving GSE another try... perhaps at their new Crystal City location. Until then, I offer the following grades for this visit only.

Atmosphere: B (Nice energy, but gets chaotic at lunch time.)
Burger: C (I've had better... here.)
Fries: D- ("Grease is the word.")
Price: C
Service: B+ (We, the Pizza should take lessons from these guys.)
Overall: C (I really hope this is a temporary setback. Good Stuff Sauce is normally worth a letter grade on its own, so a C is really disappointing.)