- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Good stuff is happening at Good Stuff Eatery, a shake-and-burger joint almost in the shadow of the Capitol.

It’s particularly good if you’re hipster chef and co-owner Spike Mendelsohn (a former contender on Bravo’s “Top Chef”), who reports that the crowds just keep growing at the 17-month-old restaurant.

“We could never have imagined this kind of success,” the young Mr. Mendelsohn says, adding that he estimates the average number of guests at up to 1,000 a day.

On a recent late Tuesday night, several dozen youngsters - Hill staffers, perhaps - waited to order at the downstairs old-time-diner-style counter. It seems this could pose a crowd-control dilemma in the smallish space.

But somehow orders were taken and filled quickly, and the young ones could head upstairs to the 80-seat dining area and flat-screen central within minutes, bearing trays brimming with hand-cut fries, milkshakes and burgers.

“Our goal is no more than a seven-minute wait,” Mr. Mendelsohn says.

We believe it.

The most popular burger is Colletti’s smokehouse. Besides a generous burger, the potato-bread bun holds bacon, cheddar, fried Vidalia onion rings and chipotle barbecue sauce. It’s tasty and greasy.

Then there’s the best-selling treat: the toasted marshmallow milkshake. It’s divine and probably contains a day’s worth of calories.

But to hear Mr. Mendelsohn talk about it, you’d think Good Stuff Eatery was a vegan diner.

“People can come in for a balanced, healthy meal,” he says.

Really?

“We serve 100 percent natural beef. It’s low in sodium,” he says.

This is truly part of Mr. Mendelsohn’s talent. With charm and smarts - in addition to cooking skills, naturally - he turns an otherwise tired concept into a winning, hip one. He even can sell fast food to an obese nation and make us feel good about it.

Also, a probable part of the success is pricing. With complete meals for less than $20, price and quality seem to intersect at a sweet spot for diners (who, incidentally, include President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama) especially in this economy.

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