Yes I know, I’ve written about Spike from Top Chef and his new DC-based burger joint two times in the last three days. But I had to write again. Why? Because tonight I got to attend the media tasting, or the “Friends and Family” night as Good Stuff Eatery dubbed it. Big thanks to my friends and fellow food bloggers over at Capital Spice for getting me on the “list” so that I could try Spike’s new burger joint on its very first night serving food.

At the door, I was handed a copy of the limited menu they were offering for the Friends & Family event. I immediately honed in on the Blazin’ Barn burger which I had been eying ever since I saw it on the menu released on Monday. The burger, which features pickled daikon & carrots, mint, cilantro, thai basil, lettuce and spicy mayo seemed to promise a very interesting flavor combination. Alas, I found out about this event last minute and had no camera with me (so sadly, no picture of me kicking it with Spike). However, when I got home I snapped a picture of tonights menu:

One thing that jumped out at me right away: the grill, the fryer and the “line” were RIGHT by the counter, and you could easily watch the cooks preparing your meal. Spike was there, wearing one of his trademark hats and diligently working the fry station- adding a mix of fresh thyme, rosemary & cracked pepper to create the “Spike’s Village Fries” that were being offered tonight. The restaurant had a good ambiance, hip and modern but also very basic and no frills. An upstairs area offered ample seating, and big screen TV’s tuned to CNN and MSNBC (it is located on Capitol Hill after all) lined the walls.

After placing my order (Blazin’ Burger with Spike’s Village Fries) I sipped on a sample of the Strawberry Shake. It was smooth and creamy without being heavy, providing just enough lightness to make for an ideal summer shake that would tickle your taste buds without weighing you down. It was just sweet enough to accentuate, rather than mask, the taste of fresh strawberries.

While I waited for my meal to be prepared, I headed over to the dipping sauce bar and got myself some Old Bay Mayo, Sriracha mayo, Chipotle mayo and Mango mayo. After getting my meal I sat down to dig in.

First up: the burger. As I bit into it, the first thing I noticed was that the meat was perfectly cooked. Nice and pink throughout the burger, unlike say, Five Guys, where all the burgers are cooked well done. Having a perfectly cooked piece of meat not only makes it look more appealing, it just makes every bite that much more enjoyable. In terms of size, this isn’t a softball sized burger you’d find at a dive bar. The burger patty was not thick, but it was certainly big enough to satisfy the average eater. The meat was flavorful with a good texture and the acidity of the pickled daikon & carrots balanced perfectly with the spicy mayo. The bun tasted fresh, and each bite of the bun left a buttery taste lingering in your mouth.

A fellow food sampler who ordered the Smokehouse burger commented that while the bacon on it was exceptional, the burger itself was just an above average version of your typical bacon cheeseburger, lamenting that the Blazin’ Burger I had ordered provided a far more interesting flavor combination.

On to the fries. While the fries were just slightly undercooked for my taste, the fresh thyme, rosemary & cracked pepper provided an abundance of flavor before the fries were even dipped in anything. But dip them I did. Of the four mayos offered at the dipping bar, the Sriracha mayo was my clear favorite, smooth and spicy – but not hot, it had just enough kick in each bite. In fact, it was about as good a mayo as I’ve ever had. The mango mayo provided an interesting contrast, offering just a hint of sweetness.

The chipotle mayo was like any chipotle mayo you’ve had – and in the past few years, you’ve no doubt had one. When did it become a prerequisite that any restaurant must offer some sort of chipotle dish or condiment on their menu? 2003? 2004? Either way, it’s a trend I could do without. The Old Bay mayo was interesting. I’m a fan of Old Bay on my fries, but had never tasted it in mayo form. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it was good, and I appreciated the shout-out to a popular local seasoning.

One of the bloggers for Capital Spice had ordered “Cliff’s Homegrown Vidalia Onion Rings”, so I tried one of those as well. Messy and greasy – many of the onions quickly broke free from their breading. The rings provided quite a different taste than the fries. Unlike the heavily seasoned fries, the onion rings provided a more simple flavor combination. The vidalia onions gave the onions a slightly sweeter taste than your average onion ring, and the breading on the onion rings was flavorful. However, what jumped out at me most of all was that the breading is incredibly crunchy. But because the breading was limited, the onions were the focus, with a flavorful crunch dabbed all over the rings.

While only the strawberry shake was offered tonight, a gentleman there who had tried the toasted marshmallow shake raved about it – saying it was made with real toasted marshmallows and caramelized bananas – that shake is a must try the next time I stop in.

Other items on my “must try” list: the “Shroom Burger”, which features Portobello tops stuffed with muenster and cheddar cheese, flash fried with panko crumbs. “Uncle D’s Famous Spicy Chili” and “Spikes 5 Napkin Burger” which comes with maple bacon and a fried egg.

Good Stuff Eatery also serves beer, offering very reasonable $3.50 pints of Yuengling and Blue Moon.

Spike was my boy on this season of Top Chef, so I knew I was inclined to like the place. But bias aside, I must say, the fries were solid, the shake tasty, and the burger probably the best part of all. I can’t imagine myself ever buying a wedge salad – perhaps this is an offering for those who want to check the place out but aren’t interested in burgers? But everything else on the menu looks good. Adding a shake to your meal will certainly up the cost of your bill a bit, but two people can split fries and each have a burger and a drink for around $20 – not a bad deal these days.

Spike seems to have leveraged the “Spike Brand” coming out of Top Chef about as well as he possibly could. The restaurant is opening just a few weeks after this season of Top Chef ended, and unlike NY or LA where he might get lost in the celebrity chef shuffle, Spike has a great opportunity to stake out some turf in the begging-for-more-celebrity-chefs city of Washington DC.

So has Spike created food at the “gourmet level” some might expect from a Top Chef finalist? Yes and no. I had absolutely no complaints about my burger. It was delicious with well balanced flavors from start to finish. But remember, the goal of Good Stuff isn’t to offer a fine dining experience, it’s to offer damn good burgers with delicious, fresh ingredients at prices the average person can afford. If that is in fact the goal, Spike has certainly succeeded.

I know this burger fan will definitely be going back for another round – and perhaps, if I’m in there when it’s not too busy, I can score a picture with Spike – who I can only hope has become an avid reader of So Good since moving to DC. Whadda say Spike?

12 Responses

  1. lemmonex

    I am incredibly jealous.

    Also, I would like to try the onion rings…yesterday. They sound great, even if some breading fell off. It is nearly impossible to find a good onion ring.

    Did they have coffee shakes? Way more appealing than strawberry, IMHO.

  2. Ace

    How does the Blazin’ Barn burger compare to a Vietnamese sandwich? They have nearly identical ingredients, but I have a hard time imagining how it would taste on a burger.

    Also, I love Sriracha and love dipping fries in mayo. I’m going to go bake some fries and make my own right now. Thanks for the late night snack idea!

  3. Kristin

    Oh yum – I need to get over there and get myself a burger. And those Onion Rings sound delish….

  4. ali g

    eick, your descriptions have, as always, left me drooling over my keyboard….they are about as fantastic as i imagine those onion rings to be 🙂

  5. Michael

    All I can say is, I’m glad I’m not an investor. I work on the Hill and this place needs a revamp of it’s business model if it plans on making it past January. I understand that they’ve only been open a short while, and I understand that they have some kinks to work out. But the first time I went to this place, I waited 20 minutes to order. No problem, I thought. Over and hour and ten minutes later, we’d effectively been held hostage and had to wait for cold food that wasn’t all that much better than 5 Guys.

    The second time I went, there was a line to the end of the block. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, so I left for another of the several restaurants on Penn. In an effort to try to get a grasp on why everybody is so crazy about this place I went back this afternoon to get a “handspun milkshake.” As I approached the door, a man who is apparently the restaurant’s bouncer stopped me to tell me that they were closed. This, in the middle of the afternoon. I assured the bouncer that I had money and was willing to spend it. Alas, money apparently is of no concern here as they turned me away, informing me that they’re closed for two hours every afternoon.

    I could understand that if this was a sit-down restaurant – and note, I’m not even saying it has to be a fine dining restaurant, rather, just a sit-down one. I fail to understand the wisdom of closing a cheeseburger stand on one of the most well-traveled streets in Washington, D.C. for two hours every afternoon, leaving eager tourists the options of your competitors on everyside.

    I’m not eager to head back.

  6. Riddla

    I was extemely impressed with the execution of the food. The bun is soft, buttery and allows the meat and other ingredients to shine. The meat, ordered medium rare is juicy with a tint of pink. I had the blazin barn which is a take on the good old Vietnamese sandwich. The mint gives it a fresh and vibrant aftertaste. I added the sriracha mayo which worked perfectly adding some spiciness and creaminess to the burger. These are the best burgers I have had in the d.c area, hands down.

    On the other hand, the line was long and tiresome. They really need to keep things moving faster. They should allow people to order first and then sit and wait for their orders. Their current set up invites chaos and when the novelty of a new burger joint by Spike wears out I don’t see people continuing to wait in such conditions.

    Overall, I was very impressed. I hope they work their kinks out and get things moving. This place has serious potential!! Bling Bling for Spike!!

  7. underwhelmed

    hmmmmm… a franchise of solid burger joints in the dc area???… i think five guys beat you to it. flippin’ burgers???… way to go spike.

  8. soggy bun

    i went to the restaurant tonight, and my burger bun was so soggy i took it back for a new one. they have all the regularly ordered burgers (like cheese, turkey, bacon) wrapped up and sitting under heat lamps. don’t they expect the buns to get soggy that way? i wished tom coliccio was there so he could tell spike what a basic mistake they’re making. although, the toasted marshmallow shake WAS amazing.


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