Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raise Hell at Ray's

It’s that time again. No, I’m not thinking of Halloween or autumn or even breast cancer awareness month. As an unabashed wonk, I can take pride in saying that it is once again election season. There aren’t many things that we can all agree on, but I like to believe that Democrats and Republicans can concur that President Obama has great taste in food. President Obama has now visited Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington twice since taking office. He even brought Russian president Demitry Medvev for lunch too. And if the commander-in-chief is sharing such closely loved national secrets with the Russians, I think we can agree the cat's out of the bag.

The president has a team of accomplished chefs stationed in the White House to serve his every want and need. Yet there must be a lack of good burgers, as he has visited Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, VA, twice since taking office.

After my first Ray’s experience, I was hooked. This is no ordinary burger. In fact it’s about as upscale as you can get without using the expensive kobe beef. Ray’s burgers are made with top-grade sirloin that could have been taken from an amazing steak. Yet, somewhere along the way the meat took a serendipitous turn only to wind up in your magnificent burger. As Elliot likes to point out, eating a Hell Burger is a bit like having a religious experience on a bun. Every single time we've sat down to enjoy our burgers, very little discussion actually happened because we are so immersed in the flavors of the beef and the magnificent toppings.

You can have your burgers cooked one of 4 different ways. Elliot and are both fans of the traditional grilled and au-poivre, but they also offer Cajun seasoning and Diablo style. The next decision you have to make it what you want to put on top of that wonderful patty. There are the usual suspects like lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Then you have the other freebies like sherry mushrooms, roasted garlic spread, charred jalapenos and Ray’s heck sauce (a mixture of ketchup, horseradish and mayo). If you want to upgrade your burger (and spend a bit extra) you can add foie gras, bone marrow, black forest ham, guacamole and any number of different and unusual cheeses. If you want a traditional burger with the standard toppings you can order that, but if you want to “raise” the bar it’s absolutely encouraged.

There are two seating options at Ray’s and they are a mere two doors apart in the same strip mall. At the original location of Ray’s Hell Burger you stand in line to order and then sit down, whereas at Ray’s Hell Burger Too you sit down and are waited on and also have the option of paying by credit card. I prefer Ray’s Too because I find the experience less stressful, but to each his or her own.

Both locations also offer a few sides including a mac & cheese, regular and sweet potato fries. All three are good, but I don’t find that any of them knock your socks off. But, then again, I do have to give Ray’s props for offering fries, since up until earlier this year they were nowhere to be found on the menu. The closest thing you could find to satisfy the salty craving was a bag of chips.

No matter if you want to be original (bone marrow!) or boring (cheddar cheese), just be sure to get to Ray’s before President Obama or any other heads of state. The lines are long enough without a motorcade and extra publicity.

1 comment:

  1. I've been dying to try Ray's! I live in Arlington and my boyfriend loves it. I am a huge fan of Big Buns too (also in Arlington). I've heard really good things about Elelvation Burger as well. But it seems to be agreed that you can't compete with Ray's. I also write a food blog called Twenty Something Bites (, check it out!