Restaurant Reviews: The Hill’s Good Stuff Eatery and DC-3

10 Sep

Mmm! Hey, beautiful! Say hello to the Bulgogi & Kimchi dog at DC-3. Scroll down to read more!

 

Pennsylvania Avenue is home to more than just, y’know, that little White House at good ol’ 1600. When you take Pennsylvania Ave. in the opposite direction of the White House, heading southeast, you hit the heart of the Hill.

Image courtesy of cloud9living.com. City on a Hill! Heh heh, I kill myself.

Er, Capitol Hill, that is! One of my favorite neighborhoods in town, the Hill is home to many a fun food shop, fresh market, and tasty restaurant. Hill’s Kitchen and Eastern Market are in this neck of the woods, as are two restaurants I’ve recently tried – Spike Mendolsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania, and DC-3 Hot Dogs, just off of PA Ave on 8th SE.

While these two foodstuffs establishments are a few blocks apart, they epitomize – to me, the not-quite-native-but-not-a-newbie resident – the fun flavor of Capitol Hill. It’s business in the front, party in the back: a kind of mullet-of-a-neighborhood with great bars and restaurants in the shadow of the seat of one of the most powerful governments in the world. Fun, hip, down-to-earth  – what’s not to like?

Image courtesy of foursquare.com. Just a few stops on Capitol Hill’s 8th street SE.

For starters, Good Stuff is likely the wider known of the two, mostly due to its founding chef’s celebrity pedigree. Spike Mendolsohn competed on Top Chef in a former life, and now spends his time opening DC restaurants, including Good Stuff and its pizza-serving twin, We The Pizza (I know – THE PUNS!) next door. Good Stuff focuses on what Spike sees as just that – the good stuff, a.k.a. juicy burgers, homey & dressed-down fries, and a milkshake or two (or more).

Image courtesy of eatworkplay.com. And their logo has a cow. Lurve it.

While their impressive mayo and sauce bar may get a lot of publicity, along with sandwiches featuring fried eggs or those named after a certain Mr. Obama (featuring bacon, horseradish and Roquefort cheese), it’s the unsung heroes of the menu that got my attention. On a visit to Good Stuff with my visiting sister, I sunk my teeth into a Michelle Melt (the Mrs. Obama burger, featuring “Southlawn Herb Garden Mayo” and Swiss cheese) and was surprised to note the patty’s protein of choice: turkey.

Now, normally, turkey burgers have a reputation for being culinary hockey pucks. Still, I order them on a regular basis, in an attempt to eat less saturated fat and out of the erstwhile hope that the turkey burger won’t suck. This time? To quote the Good Stuff motto: Goodness. Gracious. The juices dribbled down my chin. The spices tickled my taste buds. The combination of mayo, cheese, turkey, lettuce, tomato & bun so perfectly married in my mouth that you’d think divine intervention had a hand in the union.

Image courtesy of mindbodygreen.com. Confession: I didn’t have time to take my own picture, because I was too busy inhaling this bad boy in far fewer bites than Miss Manners might deem ladylike in her most generous mood. NOM NOM NOM.

My sister’s standard turkey burger, topped with creamy avocado and a slew of veggies, was just as delicious. I think we both said, “Excuse me for a minute; this burger and I are having an intimate encounter” at the same time.

In short, when you check out Good Stuff, don’t just hit it up for the touristy benefit of Spike’s endorsement (or the fact that the place has been featured everywhere from the Food Network to the pages of “Every Day with Rachael Ray,” which prompted my mom to ask, “Honey, have you gone to that … Good Stuff place?”). Go for the turkey burger. (And maybe one of those toasted marshmallow milkshakes.) Your taste buds will thank you, even if your cardiologist has a few choice words for your arteries.

Image courtesy of Seriouseats.com. Oh, what’s that? Yup, it’s drool on my keyboard.

The second Capitol Hill joint I hit up recently was DC-3, a humbly outfitted hot dog joint right on 8th street, in the mini-neighborhood known as Barracks Row. 8th SE is a quick right turn from Pennsylvania, and features some of the city’s most interesting and quirkiest restaurants. DC-3, with its old school, pilot-and-plane-themed décor, proves no exception.

Cuuuute, right? I dug it.

I had previously scouted the place through Yelp (always a risky move – you never know who got paid to say “the roach on my salad really added to the experience” or whose hyperbolic praise masks real-life health code violations), and discovered that their 16-item “Regionals” menu focused on famous dogs from around the U.S., including the rarely seen outside of Arizona “Sonoran Hot Dog.” They also reportedly had a classic Chicago-style hot dog on the menu, and this former Midwesterner was too intrigued to pass up the place.

More cute decor — a map of each hot dog’s region of origin. Cooool.

No waiters, no muss, no fuss: at DC-3, patrons simply order up a dog at their vintage-style counter, and dogs come in a red plastic basket lined with wax paper. DC-3 does indeed sport both Sonoran and Chicago-style dogs, as well as their most popular and most legendary frank: the Q’s Seoul Bulgogi & Kimchi.

This monstrosity is a testament to the Korean-American story in the best heartburn-on-a-bun way possible. A crisply toasted, simple white bun is topped with the ubiquitous dog; then, a hefty serving of bulgogi, a classic Korean beef dish; and finally, the spicy, funkalicious kimchi. The kimchi gleams with fluorescent orange and muted green, and the ends of the dog just barely peek through below the monstrous toppings. It is, in a word, delicious.

Other DC-3 highlights include the Maine Red Snapper (with white sauce and onion relish), the Seattle Pike Place Ultimate Fish Dog (just fish, no fish-and-dog combo, which is probably for the best), and a falafel-fest known as the California Left-Winger.

If you find yourself on the Hill and feeling a bit noshy, check out either Good Stuff or DC-3. Both are delicious, and both are shockingly wallet-friendly for a town that seems to prize itself on pricey dinner menus. Both places make for a great take-out lunch, too – after ordering from both establishments, I ate my lunch in the shadow of the U.S. capitol, sitting on a park bench and enjoying the summertime sun as it made that majestic white dome gleam.

Pretty cool.

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