Ray's Hell Burger
1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA
Whenever we have visitors from out of town, we head to Ray's Hell Burger because, simply put, Ray's serves up the best burger in town (as Obama knows!). The ambitious Michael Landrum of Ray's fame certainly knows how to dish up a burger masterpiece, served no frills style.
Ray's Hell Burger offers 10-oz. burgers made from freshly ground, hand-trimmed beef. It's the same steak offered at Ray's the Classics and Ray's the Steaks, just ground in-house throughout the day. The basic burger is $6.95, and can be accompanied by a slew of free toppings, including lettuce, tomato, peppers and sherry-sauteed onions and mushrooms. Or you can add extras, such as White Vermont cheddar. The burgers are served on soft brioche buns that just soak up the burger juices. Although the last few bites tend to fall apart, there's plastic silverware to help scoop up those last morsels of tastiness.
It's true that DC has become a burger Mecca as of late (see: BGR, Rogue States, the upcoming Shake Shack, FLIP and Bobby's Burger Palace). But Ray's Hell Burger will continue to stand out, no matter what the next celebri-chef can throw at it. So what makes Ray's Hell Burger so freaking good? Simply put - it's the beef. The meat is of such high quality, and cooked so perfectly, that just a burger patty alone can incite orgasms of tastiness.
Originally Ray's Hell Burger adhered to a stringent menu of burgers and perhaps a side of watermelon or corn on the cob. But today, those options have expanded to include fries, sweet potato fries and mac and cheese. How are the sides? The fries are basic fries, nothing special (I would say don't waste your calories on them). The sweet potato fries are far better, and the mac and cheese is pretty rocking. It's creamy and delicious, although without any one overwhelming flavor.
I can't really point to any downsides at Ray's Hell Burger - I mean, it's pretty bare bones, with a cafeteria-style set up. You line up, peruse a printed menu, and order your meal. It's cash-only, but thankfully there's an ATM in the back, because you don't want to miss out. Once you've ordered, you can grab a table. But don't try to snag one without ordering, because Ray's Hell Burger moves people through quickly, and you're likely to be berated by a seatless customer holding a tray of food (and rightly so - wait your turn, people). If you're awaiting food, sans table, I've noticed that the wait staff will help you out.