DonRocks

A Third-Rate "Chef" on a Second-Tier City

55 posts in this topic

Here are some gems from this tender little reminiscence.

Here, I opened one restaurant, Good Stuff, that developed my entire career. It is nice to be in a second-tier city where you can be a big fish in a small pond.

And:

After a few years here, I am finally finding balance in my life. When I got here, all I did was work. Now, I can take some time and enjoy the city and walk around and see the place. Doing that helps me love this city a little more every day.

Why don't you "take some time" and make your two grease pits into something more than the shit holes that they are?

That's right, I'm coming right out and saying it, you media-driven, propped-up, culinary version of Britney Spears ... both of your establishments suck in no uncertain terms. They SUCK.

You might be "famous," but you're a nobody to me. You're probably the nicest guy in the world (*), but you're treading on sacred culinary ground with your asinine, arrogant comments - and arrogance, without the substance to back it up, makes you look like a mercenary fool, and I don't mean a King Lear fool.

Doing my part to help you "love this [second-tier] city" a little less,

Rocks

(*) Thus, I address "Spike Mendelsohn," the "celebrity chef" that is constantly thrown in our faces by the PR-swallowing, star-fucking media, and also his lousy hamburger and pizza joints; and not Spike Mendelsohn, the human being.

And no, I don't blame you (hell, I'd probably do the same thing). But checks and balances are needed, and they are virtually non-existent when it comes to you, Warren Brown, Carla Hall (sorry), and (yes, I'll say it), relative to his ridiculous (i.e., "worthy of ridicule") amount of fame, José Andrés, among several others in this second-tier city.

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I really wonder what goes through someone's head when he lives and/or works in a city and wants to make a living on customer money from that city, yet refers to that city as "second tier." Hel-lo?! Yo, Spike, people in DC can actually read and hear what you say in interviews and don't appreciate being called "second tier."

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Why don't you "take some time" and make your two grease pits into something more than the shit holes that they are?

I have eaten at Good Stuff twice and, though it ain't my kind of burger, he does Five Guys better than Five Guys. And, to play devil's advocate (you TOLD us to stir up controversy), DC is a "second tier city" if NY and maybe San Francisco are your first tier.

His restaurants are justifiably popular, in the exactly the way that Applebees is unjustifiably popular. He gives people what they want, which isn't much, and makes them like a little more. I actually think he elevates things around here, celebrity or not, even if only marginally. I can name dozens of burgers I'd rather have, but I'm a thick burger, not a thin burger guy. If I wanted a relatively fast burger on the Hill, I'd probably go to Good Stuff.

Though, to be honest, he has bribed me personally. He has a sauce laced with Sriracha, to which I am hopelessly addicted. If he served dirt laced with glass, I'd eat it with Sriracha.

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Cheers, Don! The guy's rhetoric is a bit much and his burgers are Five Guys caliber, which is to say not first or second rate. If you want a good burger in the Capitol HIll neighborhood, try Smith Commons or Queen Vic on H Street or the mini burgers at Matchbox all of which can be ordered to medium rare and exceed the offerings at "Good Stuff" in my experience.

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I have eaten at Good Stuff twice and, though it ain't my kind of burger, he does Five Guys better than Five Guys.

So, just to try and figure out what you're trying to say here: you're impressed that one, single, family-owned hamburger restaurant (despite you implying you don't like it) can outperform a national chain with over 750 locations in 40 states and 4 Canadian provinces?

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A few years ago he gave a latke making demonstration at 6th and I synagogue. Halfway through his presentation he moved onto applesauce. His fancy version was cherry apple sauce: apples sauce and cherry jello straight out of the Jello box. Anywhere else not a big deal but Jello has gelatin in it, which is not kosher. You don't bring non kosher ingredients into a synagogue, Top Chef or not. The entire audience gasped when he brought it out.

MelGold and I left and went to Hell Burger to redeem our souls.

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So, just to try and figure out what you're trying to say here: you're impressed that one, single, family-owned hamburger restaurant (despite you implying you don't like it) can outperform a national chain with over 750 locations in 40 states and 4 Canadian provinces?

"Impressed" would be a strong word. I'm saying that I understand why Good Stuff is popular, because Five Guys is popular. Popular does not equate to good (hence the Applebees comment), but Good Stuff is among the better places in DC within the Five Guys genre. Would his 750th restaurant be as good? Probably not. But I've never eaten at that restaurant, because it doesn't exist. If I met someone who loved Five Guys, and they were ever near Good Stuff, I'd suggest they try it.

That said, again, I'm not a thin burger guy. Those kind of burgers are not why I eat burgers. I like a thick patty that is seared, rather than cooked. Central does this the best in the city. And, personally, I'd go to Hard Times (at least the Clarendon one) before Good Stuff.

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Here are some gems from this tender little reminiscence.

And:

Why don't you "take some time" and make your two grease pits into something more than the shit holes that they are?

That's right, I'm coming right out and saying it, you media-driven, propped-up, culinary version of Britney Spears ... both of your establishments suck in no uncertain terms. They SUCK.

You might be "famous," but you're a nobody to me. You're probably the nicest guy in the world (*), but you're treading on sacred culinary ground with your asinine, arrogant comments - and arrogance, without the substance to back it up, makes you look like a mercenary fool, and I don't mean a King Lear fool.

Doing my part to help you "love this [second-tier] city" a little less,

Rocks

(*) Thus, I address "Spike Mendelsohn," the "celebrity chef" that is constantly thrown in our faces by the PR-swallowing, star-fucking media (**), and also his lousy hamburger and pizza joints; and not Spike Mendelsohn, the human being.

And no, I don't blame you (hell, I'd probably do the same thing). But checks and balances are needed, and they are virtually non-existent when it comes to you, Warren Brown, Carla Hall (sorry), and (yes, I'll say it), relative to his ridiculous (i.e., "worthy of ridicule") amount of fame, José Andrés, among several others in this second-tier city.

(**) I'm truly not singling any publication out with this link; in fact, I found it after I wrote this post. While this may be the most egregious example, it's the bloggers, some of whom have become food writers for local publications - and the PR agents that support them - that are the major ethical violators, and in their cases, the problem is much more widespread and insidious than the rather straightforward mediafication of "Spike Mendelsohn."

Hear hear! If there was a "like" button, I would use it. Spike is so overrated and obnoxious. That stupid hat does not help.

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...Good Stuff is among the better places in DC within the Five Guys genre...

Except that he's serving Five Guys burgers at Hell Burger prices.

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Except that he's serving Five Guys burgers at Hell Burger prices.

I'm not sure that anyone whose price points are, essentially, a middle finger to the restaurant industry is a fair comparison. But I'd much rather have a hell burger. Though, I submit that a thick burger is a different kind of food entirely.

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That said, again, I'm not a thin burger guy. Those kind of burgers are not why I eat burgers.

Thick or thin patty preferences aside, the real crime at Good Stuff is the fries. Soggy, half-inch nubs that are insanely priced given the quality.

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Since I've never been a fan of that mediawhore, I wholeheartedly agree with Don's post. A few clarifications though. The fact that he calls DC a 2nd tier city doesn't bother me. It bothers me that he thinks he's big fish in a small pond. He's got a burger joint and the pizza place, which would not get much attention but for his mediawhore status. It's arrogance; however, that arrogance is fed by people willingly patronizing his restaurants. Also, I think it's funny that he turned the table on his parents. Instead of him washing dishes, he's making his parents do the dirty work while he's out pretending to be a mover and a shaker.

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... which would not get much attention but for his mediawhore status ...

He is a mediawhore, much like Paris Hilton except: (1) he has, thus far, been successful at something; and (2) Don has not, as of yet, expressed a desire to sleep with him.

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Earlier today, I saw this posted on DCist and wondered what the response would be here on the forum.

He must not be getting enough attention these days to be talking this nonsense.

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I work a block away from his pathetic little store fronts far-reaching top-tier empire and often walk down that stretch of Penn to wherever. Today, for the first time in a very long time, I happened to look to the right and think to myself, "Oh , there are those burger-and-pizza joints 3-star emporia worthy of Manhattan run by the 15-minute-fame-jerk guy with the composer's name. Soggy fries, lukewarm pizza, medicocre burgers, fucking loud music. That's what stuck in my craw ass rectum memory.

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I will give him this--that block of PA avenue has been a culinary wasteland for the 20 years I've worked on the Hill. But without the cult of Top Chef fans working on the Hill and their hyper devotion to eating overpriced lousy food, no one would still be talking about Good Stuff let alone eating there. The few times I've tried either of his places (and I think the pizza is less bad than the burgers) the crowd is 90 percent staffers under the age of 30, 5 percent staffers over the age of 30 and 5 percent befuddled tourists wondering why are DC food prices so high.

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I will give him this--that block of PA avenue has been a culinary wasteland for the 20 years I've worked on the Hill. But without the cult of Top Chef fans working on the Hill and their hyper devotion to eating overpriced lousy food, no one would still be talking about Good Stuff let alone eating there. The few times I've tried either of his places (and I think the pizza is less bad than the burgers) the crowd is 90 percent staffers under the age of 30, 5 percent staffers over the age of 30 and 5 percent befuddled tourists wondering why are DC food prices so high.

When I have gone by on weekends it certainly looks like most of the folks there are either the under 30 crowd or tourists that are Top Chef fans. He gets a good deal of media exposure and I am sure folks seek out his places when they visit.

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I'll always remember my first, only, and last visit to We, the Pizza.

I was very much impressed with the marketing and whimsical nature of the establishment. The silly quotes, the large black and white pictures, the "no-frills" unpretentious nature of the joint.

But the most dominant memory from that lone experience was "God damn, I could be eating soooo much better right now, and drinking soooooo much better right now, at Two Amy's, or Pizzaria Orso, or Pizza Paradiso."

Meh.

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I read the comments here and was getting ready to draft some kind of response about how he was at least raising the (admittedly low) bar on the hill, and that without Good Stuff and We The Pizza there might not be places like Ba Bay opening, and then I read this:

To me, H Street and U Street look more like Brooklyn every day.

Fuck. You. No they don't. They look like H Street and U Street. They don't want to look like Brooklyn, We don't want them to look like Brooklyn. And they're not going to look like Brooklyn. Nothing annoys me more than an expat New Yorker who can't look at anything without comparing it to something in the bouroughs, which must be superior because... hey, look where it is on the map!

Spike, if I want to see things that look like cheap knock-offs of NYC, I'll look at both your menus, which are directly cribbed from superior establishements such as Shake Shack, Artichoke, and Stand. In the meantime, you'd do well to tuck your stupid hat a little lower and keep your mouth shut for a while.

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Spike, if I want to see things that look like cheap knock-offs of NYC, I'll look at both your menus, which are directly cribbed from superior establishments such as Shake Shack, Artichoke, and Stand. In the meantime, you'd do well to tuck your stupid hat a little lower and keep your mouth shut for a while.

Calls for the creation of a new Spike-centric slam along the line of the Texas "All hat, no cattle."

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I had no problem with most of his comments. DC, a second-tier city? Sure. Let's just say Paris, Rome, Florence, Milan, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Chicago, Sidney etc are first tier. We are second-tier. And if you want to say just US, maybe the first-tier is NY, LA, SF, Chicago. Second-tier does not mean second rate. It does not mean DC sucks.It's where Spike seats himself on our "second-tier" food pyramid that had me scratching my head. "Big fish.....little pond"? Seriously?

He's confusing making money with respect, and his top-line revenue as validation of his craft. Sequoia makes a lot of money too, you know.

Spike Mendelsson's abilities might put him in the top 20 chefs working in this city. But then again, so "might" mine. Spike's actual cooking has been below average at best, but his self-promotion has been nothing short of Trump-ian.

No serious list of the great, influential chefs - the numerous, talented, and awe-inspiring chefs - of this city would include Spike Mendelsson. Doesn't even crack the top 50.

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Nothing annoys me more than an expat New Yorker who can't look at anything without comparing it to something in the bouroughs, which much be superior because... hey, look where it is on the map!

Then you are not going to like him taking ownership of Washington in his follow-up.

People are misconstruing Danny's interview and he would agree that my comments were not in the least bit disparaging to my DC.

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I had no problem with most of his comments. DC, a second-tier city? Sure. Let's just say Paris, Rome, Florence, Milan, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Chicago, Sidney etc are first tier. We are second-tier. And if you want to say just US, maybe the first-tier is NY, LA, SF, Chicago. Second-tier does not mean second rate. It does not mean DC sucks.It's where Spike seats himself on our "second-tier" food pyramid that had me scratching my head. "Big fish.....little pond"? Seriously?

"Second tier" doesn't have to mean second rate, but it sounds insulting all the same. For someone hooked up to a PR machine like it's oxygen, it doesn't make sense to use a phrase like that. Saying "a smaller market," "an up and coming food town," or something accurate that doesn't sound like a slam wouldn't have gotten the same attention, though. The combination of that with the "big fish" comment just makes him sound like a mercenary. Of course, the original comments he made when he was first opening Good Stuff are not all that far off in tone from this, so at least he's consistent.

Now he says he was "taken out of context" on this:

http://dcist.com/2011/05/mendelsohn_responds_to_second-tier.php

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Saying "a smaller market," "an up and coming food town," or something accurate that doesn't sound like a slam wouldn't have gotten the same attention, though.

Thank you and thank you.

And holy crap, the big fish small pond comment made me want to slap the self-important dope. Being the purveyor of pricey fast food in a city whose top talent can hang with the best of any city - first-tier or not - does not make you a big fish, dude.

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"Second tier" doesn't have to mean second rate, but it sounds insulting all the same. For someone hooked up to a PR machine like it's oxygen, it doesn't make sense to use a phrase like that. Saying "a smaller market," "an up and coming food town," or something accurate that doesn't sound like a slam wouldn't have gotten the same attention, though. The combination of that with the "big fish" comment just makes him sound like a mercenary. Of course, the original comments he made when he was first opening Good Stuff are not all that far off in tone from this, so at least he's consistent.

Now he says he was "taken out of context" on this:

http://dcist.com/2011/05/mendelsohn_responds_to_second-tier.php

To be fair, he's tried pairing backhanded compliments with the 'up and coming' moniker before as well.

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