Ray’s Hell Burger

Written by on May 26, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(rayshellburger.com) – Rosslyn neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: My friend Kent first told me about a delicious burger joint in Arlington that we had to try. When Samyar was down visiting for a few days, it was the perfect time! Later, I read in the Lonely Planet Washington, DC book that my sister gave me that Ray’s Hell Burger is famous because Obama & Biden ate a meal there after finding out they won the 2008 election.

Type of cuisine: Burgers and sides with creative flair. Select your own seasoning from a secret steak blend to black peppercorn crust, a spicy Cajun spice blend to a spicy chipotle sauce, add a cheese, luxury toppings such as applewood smoked bacon, seared foi gras with truffle oil, roasted bone marrow with persillade and guacamole. Choose from a plethora of free toppings: lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, raw red onions, pickle, charred jalapeňos, cognac & sherry sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic, Ray’s Heck Sauce (tangy, zippy, but not spicy) or fiery Piraňha sauce, and BBQ sauce. Or, take on one of the specialty burgers from the seven creations on the Ray’s Hell Burger menu. Looking for a little something more, try one of their four side dishes: skin on fries, in small ($1.75) or large ($2.50), sweet potato fries, in small ($2) or large ($3), seven cheese MAC ($2) or homemade cole slaw ($1.25).

Ambiance: Without a sign outside proclaiming to passerby that Ray’s is this way, it’s a surprise that so many people know exactly where to find it. Windows along one side underneath the roof-like awning in this small strip mall give a sense of a small interior without much to offer. Limited seating outside is available for patrons wishing to enjoy the heat of summer or the cool chill of winter. Inside, one is pleasantly surprised to find a large space, extending back in a rectangular room, with tables and chairs complete with an entire roll of paper towels at each setting. Condiments can be found in small, silver baskets, as well as at the condiment and water bar directly across from the order counter and cash registers. Walking back, one is invited to view the large butcher paper menus printed and hanging up against the right side wall, with colored paper talking bubbles promoting various menu items and alerting diners of the cash only policy. (No need to fear, a no-fee ATM is available at the back for those who have come with empty pockets out-turned.) Make your selections, walk up to one of the two unamused girls sitting behind the small opening with a view of the kitchen and place your orders. Numbers are given to take back to your tables, where you can chat, enjoy the smells of grilled burgers and deep-fried potatoes and await your meal. Burgers are presented on oval-shaped, white, plastic plates, without accountrements or parsley-decor, but with all of the bulk and height expected of an excellent, juicy burger.

What I ordered: Three of us made our way to Ray’s on this 93º day with 50% humidity, where we enjoyed two B.I.G. Poppa burgers ($7.99 each), an au poivre burger topped with aged Danish Bleu cheese, cognac & sherry sauteed mushrooms and grilled onions. We had one order for the small skin on fries ($1.75) to accompany the cole slaw ($1.25) being shared among the two of us that split one burger, and a side of small sweet potato fries ($2) for our more gutsy friend with an appetite.

What I loved: I loved the aged bleu cheese on our burgers and the more vinegar and horseradish taste to the cole slaw. The burger was huge, mostly meat rather than bread-centered and the mushrooms and grilled onions a perfect blend of sweetness and hearty decadence.

Why I loved it: The food is good. The portions healthy and the space easy-going. No frills and no expectation, just real, good food.

Cost: Low to average ($6.99 to $16.99 per one-pound-plus burger)

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