Burgers and shakes are an easy sell. They’re cheap, delicious, and so wrapped up in Americana that the thought of enjoying either elicits a nostalgic grin. In the Washington, D.C. area, there’s no shortage of burger joints ready to grill up bun-bound, cheese-covered, beefy masterpieces. It takes something special to stand out from the crowd. And Good Stuff Eatery, with its farm-fresh ingredients and fun and tasty burger recipes, has found a way to distinguish itself.
The growing venture, the brainchild of “Top Chef” alum Spike Mendelsohn, put down roots in Crystal City last summer after the 2008 opening of its flagship Capitol Hill location (and a Georgetown spot is expected soon).
On a late weekend evening at the Crystal City location, customers fill the restaurant, chatting between burger bites over the sound of upbeat tunes and the sizzle of the grill. The restaurant is urban-loft-meets-rural-barn. The grill sits behind a long, stainless steel counter that runs parallel to a large farmhouse-style communal table. Over the dining area, ceiling joists suggest the shape of a barn, but the comically oversized cowbell emblazoned with the signature Good Stuff cow logo hanging above the soda fountain area says it loudly. But the restaurant’s “not far from the farm” motto goes beyond décor.
One bite of the Farmhouse Burger ($5.95) says it all. The lettuce and onion slices are crisp, the tomato is flavorful, and it’s all undeniably fresh. But the toppings are just an accent to a well-seasoned, well-grilled beef patty. Topped with a bit of house special sauce, the Farmhouse Burger is quality in simplicity (but adding some American cheese or Applewood bacon for a few cents more won’t hurt).
For diners looking for more fun on their bun, the Original Burgers selection offers 10 clever creations. The Prez Obama Burger ($6.98) shows the care Good Stuff takes in balancing the flavors of its toppings. The horseradish sauce could easily be too overpowering, but instead it gives the burger just a breath of heat. The onion marmalade could be too sweet, but it’s tempered by tangy Roquefort cheese and savory, crunchy Applewood bacon. It’s all combined atop a delicious beef patty and within a pillowy potato roll that’s sauce-soaked at the edges but still clinging on to this mighty burger creation. Other burger feats follow: a Steakhouse Burger that isn’t dominated by onion straws or sauce ($7.25), and the Blazin’ Barn ($6.98) that combines pickled daikon and carrots and herbs with spicy mayonnaise for a light and fresh burger that packs potent heat.
Burgers and fries are a match made, and Good Stuff doesn’t disappoint in the French fry category. The hand-cut fries are offered up two ways: Sunny’s Handcut Fries ($3.69), simply fried and sea-salt dusted, and the Spike’s Village Fries ($3.79), which gets almost as creative with toppings as the burgers. Here, fresh thyme, rosemary, and sea salt combine for a blend whose herby aroma is unmistakable, even if it’s buried deep in a take-away bag. It’s a pleasant way to dress up the fries, which are just crispy enough and fried to a light brown. The dipping bar is an added bonus, and goes far beyond the standard ketchup and mustard (think chipotle mayonnaise, Old Bay mayonnaise, and the list goes on).
Any burger can become a meal for a few dollars more with a snack-sized portion of either of the fries and a small shake, an excellent way to sample the restaurant’s hand-spun milkshakes. Vanilla and chocolate are covered, but with options like Salty Caramel Kiss and Toasted Marshmallow, it’s hard to stick with the classics. The honest, rich cream flavor comes through in these thick shakes, and the dollop of whipped cream is – like fun toppings on a stellar burger and good food made with great ingredients – icing on the cake.
Good Stuff Eatery is located at 2110 Crystal Drive, Arlington. For more information, call 703-415-4663 or visit goodstuffeatery.com/crystal-city. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.