Monday, November 26, 2012

Ray's Hell Burger Food Review

To Hell and Back for a Burger?

I'm not one for hype... never have been: Either you're good or you're not. Since it opened four and a half years ago, Ray's Hell Burger at 1725 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Virginia has garnered fame and adoration from its loyal fan base. Ray's most notable fan, President Barack Obama has dined here twice (once with VP Joe Biden, and then again with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.) Somebody please tell our President about Bourbon Steak in Georgetown! Well, I finally tried Ray's for the first time, and can't for the life of me understand what all the fuss is about.

Known affectionately for its rough edges and simplicity, Ray's resembles a 1970's coffee shop (only with better tables.) Those tables are spotless, but everything else is antiquated. I suppose some people consider it charming, but I find hard-to-read menus scribbled on poster board cheap. Ditto for the inappropriate sexploitation movie posters on the main wall (see below.) I expect to see stuff like this on the walls of James Holmes' bedroom, not a restaurant that serves children and the leader of the free world. Talk about tacky.

Yes, that's a busty Ursula Andress tied to a stake (far left)

That should cover the decor, but what about the food? After all, that's what folks line up for, right? I arrived at 11:00 AM sharp (opening) to avoid the lunchtime chaos, and was first to order. I went simple: Little Devil burger, Skin on Fries and a small chocolate shake. $13.10 including tax. Cash only (there's an ATM up front.) I took my seat and 10 minutes later, Ray's lone friendly staffer dropped off the world's greatest milk shake (see below.) OMG, it's delicious. I ended up drinking most of it, because I had to wait 15 minutes for my burger (and then inexplicably, another four minutes for my fries.)

Small Chocolate Shake

Don't ask why they served me my burger without fries (on purpose.) Does it take almost 20 minutes to fry potatoes? The fries proved worth the wait, already seasoned and delicious (nice to be first... fresh oil.) The burger on the other hand was a bit of a disaster. For starters, it was ice cold. It must have been sitting there longer than the four minutes I had it on ice waiting for my fries. Worse yet, it was cooked medium-rare (heavy on the rare) when I specifically asked for medium. Medium-rare is standard at Ray's but I don't like to stare at a plate of blood while I eat (call me crazy.) Two bites in, my plate started to fill up with blood and grease. Halfway through, I had nowhere to put my burger (are we supposed to use the blood as a dipping sauce?) I called it quits (the burger had nice grill marks, but lacked salt. Ray's Heck Sauce? zzz.

Little Devil (sans fries)

Little Devil (with fries, 4 minutes later)

Ray's is worth the hike for the fries and shake... especially the shake; but burger lovers should look elsewhere.

Atmosphere: D (It's a tidy dump.)
Burger: D (It's criminal to overcook a burger, but downright nasty to undercook it.)
Fries: B
Price: B (The shake is worth double the price.)
Service: B- (Tableside service is a nice touch, especially considering how busy it gets.)
Overall: C (Ray's shake saved the day, but a bad burger is hard to overlook. Shake or no shake, this place is totally overhyped.)