By John Carruthers and Ken Haynes
We set out with a sacred duty – to find the best Kinda Fancy Chain Burger (and fries) in our great city.
Here are the only rules:
- We order a place’s signature (or standard, if that’s the only option) cheeseburger and fries.
- We eat whatever else we want because Freedom.
So who is the Burger Champion? Maybe our first celebrity chef candidate.
Level 5: Good Stuff Eatery
22. S. Wabash Ave.
Motto – “Not Far From the Farm”
Locations – Six (Four in DC Metro, one in Chicago, and one in … uh … Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Huh.)
Beer – Yeah! Decent stuff, too. Only a monster would deny the majesty of Anti-Hero with a burger.
Good Stuff is the burger chain from Top Chef Chicago alumnus Spike Mendelsohn, located conveniently under the Wabash L tracks for a very Chicago mise en scene. Those tracks are not, apparently, enough of a reminder, as the place itself is stuffed with an abundance of very Chicago-y pictures and designs in case we suddenly forgot where we were.
Ken, awakening from a blow to the head: “Where am I? Oh god! Wait…The Blues Brothers….CHICAGO! WE ARE IN CHICAGO!”
Phew. Close one.
Good Stuff seems to do a big lunch rush. But it was also shockingly clean, and we didn’t have any trouble finding a booth. Good Stuff definitely embraces the fast-ness of fast food. We barely had time to sit down and take our jackets off before both orders were up, which came as a nice surprise. But, as it happens, speed is not always a strong indicator of quality.
We were pretty happy to see a Martin’s Potato Roll in use, as they’re a tasty standby that a lot of burger joints we’ve visited seem to mysteriously fall short of. The accoutrements were all fresh, as noted by the block letters in size 6000 font adorning the walls. One thing that was a bit odd was their choice to use pickles sliced length-wise like that surfboard that your stepdad Ron wouldn’t buy you when you were 8. Billy and Sam have surfboards and their dad even drives them to the beach. You’re NOT my real father!
Oh, and they put the lettuce under the patties so as to protect the bottom bun from getting soggy, which is a great practice – like using turn signals – that should be adopted by everyone.
Unfortunately the quality of the meat wasn’t very impressive. The patties were overcooked and dry, leaving most of the other ingredients (the Stuff, if you will, that was Good) to do the heavy lifting.
We have … issues … with their French fries. One thing not lacking was quantity. Check out this big ol’ pile of fries that came with a regular order:
The bad news was every other dang thing. It’s that they were the not-crispy-hand-cut variety, but it’s also that they were wet and still oily and terrible.
There was another option beyond the standard fries, “Spike’s Village Fries,” which one of us partook in. These were the regular fries with rosemary and thyme and sea salt. And by “thyme and sea salt” we mean “just an absolute shitload of rosemary, seriously how is there this much rosemary? The very air is suffused with rosemary and now our jackets smell like rosemary forever.” Somewhere, a young Orson Welles anguished with longing for an order of fries he really hated once.
The fries are a metaphor for his lost youth and innocence. And a sled.
We tried listing positives to see where this whole fry experiment went wrong, but couldn’t find anything after “are made of potatoes and not Madagascar hissing cockroaches.”
We don’t discuss price a whole bunch in this column, because eating at more than a dozen burger joints to compare tiny differences means we kind of knew what we were getting into. But we’ve got to call a little BS on this place.
Let’s go back to John’s time as a catering cook, if we may, to judge the value of the combo meal option. Draft soda is a killer deal for restaurants in making their profit margin. A 32 oz. soda, cup and all, was about 9 cents back when John was slinging burgers for money. Call it 12 cents now with inflation, if you want. But add a snack-sized fry (a DAMN POTATO) to that and Good Stuff wants you in for $4.45.
Here’s where you’d say something like “but the rents downtown!” and I’d point out that it shares a street with a Carhartt store, a Gold Coast dogs, and a damn camera store that still exists in 2017. The street is affordable and the combo meal is a TRAVESTY.
Then again, getting mad at the side items might distract you from getting mad at the burger for a minute. Can you tell we didn’t really enjoy the food?
Final Score: 2.28/5
NEW Current Leaderboard!
Epic Burger remains the people’s champion so far, by almost a full point. And this week’s contender not only failed to become King of the Mountain, but died in an auto-erotic asphyixation incident at base camp.
Good Stuff was apparently a regular haunt of the Obamas during their time in the White House. Gaze upon this absolute nothing of an article from 2011. Lesson: Nobody’s perfect.
Want to see the rest of our burger adventures? INSERT COIN