Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ray's Hell Burger Food Review II

Beach Burger at Ray's Hell Burger

Am I the only one who doesn't like Ray's Hell Burger? I appreciate the fact that President Obama thought enough of the place, to bring along Russian President Medvedev (in addition to Vice President Biden) but famous clientele doesn't trump a good tasting burger, yet alone pleasant atmosphere. After four total visits (three in Arlington, and last week's first to DC) I've yet to experience either.

Ray's Hell Burger (Too) is located a few blocks away from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Not exactly the nicest part of town, but the original Ray's (at 1713 Wilson Blvd.) wasn't much to look at either. The K Street digs however, are downright depressing. The menu is printed on giant sheets of paper, attached to the wall with duct tape. Talk about tacky. Zero artwork too, unless you count a small chalkboard advertising their $10 combo meal. Music pumps out of a tiny bluetooth speaker, located under the aforementioned paper menus; and don't even dream about Wi-Fi. Who designed this place? Helen Keller?

Thick-Cut Skin-On Fries

At least it's roomy inside, with plenty of tables (and ample space between them.) The barebones setup extends to the register area, which was manned by a friendly order taker and a simple cash register. I handed over $11 even for a Beach Burger, Fries and 12-oz. Boylan Bottling Co. Diet Black Cherry soda. 10 minutes later, my food was delivered (in a plain brown bag) to my table with a smile. Music featured The Black Keys... and nobody else. Yep, it was the full "Turn Blue" LP in all its (sobering) glory. Between "Bullet in the Brain," the lack of air conditioning, artwork or light, you'd swear you were trapped in a Seattle youth hostel. Hmm... maybe this is Hell.

As for the food, the quality hasn't changed much. Burgers are still bland, tucked inside a buttery soft bun. The Beach Burger comes simply adorned (one slice of tomato, and a load of grilled onions) featuring severely under-seasoned meat. It's bigger than advertised (quarter-pound) but tastes like nothing. Looking back, I should have gone with the Cali, which has lettuce, pickles, red onions, tomatoes and "awesome sauce."

Fries were packed inside a second brown paper bag (no additional holder) which was soaked in grease. Said fries were piping hot, thick and flaky with skin-on. They were also unseasoned, which is a crying shame given the quality and thickness of the spuds. Slap some Old Bay on these chips, and we're talking award-worthy. As is, I devoured the whole bag. Boylan sodas are without equal, so no complaints there.

Unfortunately, it's hard (impossible?) to get past the lack of atmosphere. I suppose some folks find the barebones approach charming, but not me. Would it be a crime to add a splash of color (or light) inside these unadorned walls? Even push pins would be a noticeable improvement/start over duct tape. Come on man, it's 2017. Spend a couple of bucks already. Until then, consider this my last trip to Hell.

Atmosphere: F (They don't call it Hell for nothing.)
Burger: D (Bland to a fault.)
Fries: B (Under-seasoned, but still remarkable. Imagine if they added salt?)
Service: B (Order taker was very nice.)
Value: B- (Hard to argue with 10 bucks for a burger, fries & drink.)
Overall: D (Bad burger, intolerable atmosphere = last visit.)