Fans of kitchen reality show Top Chef will soon be able to taste chef/contestant Spike Mendelsohn’s as-seen-on-TV food at his new Capitol Hill burger joint, Good Stuff Eatery (303 Pennsylvania Ave., SE), slated to open in late May.
Mendelsohn—who grew up in Clearwater, Florida, and Montreal and now lives in New York City—has had ties to Washington since his sister moved to the Hill six years ago. His parents followed, and the family of restaurant veterans soon noticed a dearth of comfort food in the neighborhood, inspiring them to plan a casual spot with what Mendelsohn calls a “country-farmhouse vibe—a lot of river rock and distressed wood. We’re not trying to do fine-dining burgers.”
While the menu is still a work in progress (the restaurant’s Web site mentions “handcut fries” and “homespun milkshakes”), Mendelsohn assures us that at least one burger will showcase the Vietnamese flavors he’s come to embrace in his current job as chef de cuisine at Drew Nieporent’s Mai House in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood: an organic beef patty topped with habañero aïoli, lettuce, and fresh herbs, and served with pickled daikon. “It’s our craziest burger,” he says. More-traditional tastes might enjoy Spike’s personal favorite, a “Five Napkin” egg/bacon/cheese burger, served on a brioche bun. “God, I could eat one of those every day,” he says.
Top Chef viewers know Mendelsohn best for his funky fedoras and brash attitude, which occasionally raises eyebrows at the judges’ table. “That’s me, that’s who I am. It’s completely reality,” he says. “I’m a pretty crazy guy, and I do run my mouth sometimes.” Though he denies that über-calm host Padma Lakshmi was hiding a Thorazine drip—“If she was, she didn’t share”—he does admit to occasional panic induced by judge Tom Colicchio’s visits to the kitchen: “Sometimes he just threw you off your game.”
With his Greek heritage, will we see any Mediterranean food on upcoming Top Chef challenges? Mendelsohn remains mum (though he does promise a Greek wedge salad with feta and olives on the Good Stuff menu). And while he can’t dish on any spoilers, Mendelsohn does reveal that viewers can expect lots more appearances of his . . . hats. “I enjoy wearing different kinds hats,” he says. “It’s where I keep all my secret ingredients.”
For more posts on Washington dining news and restaurants, click here.