Ray's Hell Burger
1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA 22209 (map); 703-841-0001
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Juicy, flavorful burger lives up to expectations. It now has a spot on my list of favorite burgers.
Want Fries with That? There are no fries! That leaves more room in your belly for burger.
Prices: Base 10-ounce burger, $7.95
After hearing about the awesomeness of Obama-approved Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Virginia, over and over again since last fall (first reading about it in Jane Black's Serious Eats City Guide for Washington, D.C.), I finally tried it a few weeks ago during my first trip to D.C. since 2007.
When my friends and I arrived to Ray's Hell Burger after a sweaty uphill walk from the Rosslyn metro station, we came upon a shuttered storefront. Nooo!...oh, nevermind, it just moved down the street to the larger Ray's the Steaks space. Phew.
At 5:45 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, it was doing good business, but it wasn't crowded. After looking at the seemingly limitless possibilities on their menu, my three friends and I went for simplicity (and moderation, keeping in mind that the burgers were ten ounces): a medium rare, grilled burger with American cheese and grilled red onions; and The Mack, a burger topped with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle, red onion, and Ray's HECK Sauce (tangy special sauce). More burger porn after the jump.
The cheeseburger also came with lettuce, tomato, raw onions, and pickles, but I opted to keep the tomato, raw onion, and pickles on the side. The first bite into the fairly unadorned meat patty screamed success: juicy, well seasoned, soft on the inside with a bit of char on the outside, draped in melty cheese and sweet, tender onions, sandwiched between a soft sesame seed bun. I didn't even mind that the meat juices eventually soaked through the bottom bun, destroying its integrity in the process—that just gave me all the more reason to shove it in my mouth as fast as I could. And I did. And all was good with the world.
The Mack was equally enjoyable, although I generally prefer less toppings so that I can full enjoy Meat Patty of Glorious Bovine Juiciness.
Sharing two burgers between the four of us meant that we emerged satisfied and not overstuffed, but on retrospect I probably could've eaten a whole burger on my own and felt fine (besides that as soon as I finished my portion, I wanted more). The burger is easy to eat and there are no accompanying fries to take up stomach space (although they do sell potato chips); you may as well eat a whole one.
We worked off the burger by taking a leisurely walk to Georgetown and getting dessert at gelateria Dolcezza. ...Okay, maybe that didn't really offset the burgers.