Ray’s Hell Burger

Written by on September 30, 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. I’ve been telling Chris about it ever since. And now, having walked to and from Georgetown, it was the perfect opportunity!

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, the bottom halves of the wall painted bright yellow with a red trim separating it from the white walls above, 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 three cashiers cramped into a small window opening with a view of the kitchen, to place 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: On this, my second visit, I was most interested in spice and found it in the Big Punisher ($7.99), a diablo burger, pepper jack cheese, charred jalapenos, grilled onions and Piranha Sauce. Chris selected the Soul Burger Number One ($8.99) with applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese (substitued for the Swiss cheese that typically comes with the burger), cognac & sherry sauteed mushrooms, and grilled red onions. We both enjoyed the free addition of lettuce and tomatoes. One order of large sweet potato fries ($3) accompanies the burgers and Seven Cheese Mac ($2) that we shared. And to wash it all down, a 16-ounce lemon meringue shake, thick and sweet.

Meal at Ray's

What I loved: I loved the Piranha Sauce that came with my burger, as well as the spice! The grilled jalapenos adding great texture and oomph to an already delicious combination of flavors. The burger was huge, mostly meat rather than bread-centered and the cheese and condiments a perfect balance of flavors.


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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