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Since I don’t live on Capitol Hill, I try to indulge in the best the neighborhood has to offer whenever I’m passing through. During the last year or so, these mini-vacations have more often than not left me sitting in one of Spike Mendelsohn‘s outposts, whether it be stuffing my face with a Prez Obama Burger at Good Stuff Eatery or tackling a buffalo chicken slice at We, the Pizza.

Dear Chef Spike: I really do love the Good Stuff brand and the times we’ve had together, but I think it’s time we start seeing other people. Like Ba Bay, which Young & Hungry colleague Scott Reitz visited last week for a bánh mì sandwich at the bar.

There’s plenty to like at Ba Bay, which describes itself as an eatery specializing in Vietnamese street-food, is located in the old Locanda space at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and is poised to be an attractive dining destination for Capitol Hill. The kitchen is run by former Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar chef Nick Sharpe, who got the gig after working with principal owner Khoa Nguyen back when the two were staffers at Vidalia under chef R.J. Cooper.

Wanting to figure out what the buzz was surrounding its opening a few weeks back, I stumbled into Ba Bay the other day to grab lunch. The restaurant’s three-course prix fixe lunch menu caught my eye. I selected the pork loaf with maggi dipping sauce; a hot bowl of spicy pork-shrimp broth with thick rice noodles, Thai basil, pork loin, and shank; and a small sampling of banana cake with curried chocolate and peanut brittle. The really, really good news? This delicious adventure can be yours for $19.99.

The staff was not only courteous but engaged—a member of the waitstaff came out to ask me what I thought of the noodles, if I needed an extra-dose of sriracha, and if I needed a refill on my Avery IPA.

Dear Chef Spike, like I said, this is a separation, not a breakup. A trial run, if you will. I’m just not ready to settle down just yet, there’s still a whole lot left on Ba Bay’s menu that I want to get my hands on.

Photo by Andrew George