Good Stuff, Bad Tagline at Spike's D.C. Joint
Inside Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery there’s a sign with two quotes on the wall opposite the registers. The first from Ray Kroc of McDonald’s, “I put the hamburger on the assembly line.” The second, at least ostensibly, is from Spike, “Assembly lines were meant for cars, Ray.” It’s a little disingenuous.
An assembly line is by definition an arrangement of machines, equipment, and workers in which work passes from operation to operation in a direct line until the product is assembled. The line in the kitchen includes a row of stations with individualized tasks: preparing bacon, cooking meat, toasting buns, assembling burgers, and bagging burgers. Closer to the registers and the pick-up, there is someone preparing fries, and at least two people on shake duty. Not an assembly line?
Perhaps not if you hold up the action to Merriam Webster’s second definition, “a process for turning out a finished product in a mechanically efficient manner.” Shakes melted on the counter for ten minutes on a Friday afternoon at 3pm as workers struggled to complete orders. If as this page on Good Stuff’s site indicates, they plan franchising, they might want to work on perfecting their own assembly line.
But food isn't about grammar and semantics... right? So what about the burgers? The Prez Obama Burger: Applewood Bacon, Onion Marmalade, Roquefort Cheese, and a Horseradish Mayo Sauce humbly described as “delicious.” It makes for good-stinky, sweet and salty toppings for a burger that’s juicier than expected for being cooked medium.
Another love-worthy burger is Uncle D’s Chili and Cheddar Cheese, which makes it known that Ben’s isn’t the only place in town with rights to that combination. Meat-only burger purists be damned — spicy chili with big beans, Cheddar sauce, green onions, and a spoonful of sour cream. You kind of wish for it to be messier, but you can’t complain about flavor.
Good Stuff’s fries are short with no crisp because they’re made with red bliss potatoes. Spike’s Village Snack Fry is the way to go — covered with fresh thyme, rosemary and sea salt. The roughage looks a bit much, but it’s fresh and the taste works. They may be the best mushy fries you’ve had.
As for the toasted marshmallow shake, it is all that. Taste-wise it delivers creamy marshmallowness, but it also works because of textural range. The recipe may dictate that the marshmallow be blended into the shake, but what was served was a milkshake with a hulking toasted marshmallow quenelle the width of the top of the cup. It makes for sweet fluffy bites between slurps.
Spike makes a decent burger, the call for freshness and “handmade” food is admirable, an no one round these parts is a McDonald's apologist, but until he’s served over 99 billion, it might be wise to leave Ray Kroc out of this.