First Look: Ray’s Hell-Burger

At Ray’s Hell-Burger, trimmings are first-rate and the roster of cheeses includes a wonderfully runny Époisses, a Danish bleu, and aged cheddars. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

At Michael Landrum’s new burger place, Ray’s Hell-Burger, the decorations include a pirate flag, butcher-shop diagrams, and piles of red meat waiting for the grinder in a starkly lit open kitchen. It might look like something out of Sweeney Todd, but instead of the worst pies in London, you’ll find the best burgers in Arlington. Or anywhere in the area.

That’s quite a feat considering that everyone from culinary superstar Michel Richard to Top Chef also-ran Spike Mendelsohn is battling for burger supremacy. Landrum’s thick patties—you get a hefty ten ounces for $6.95—are made from a blend of hand-trimmed prime beef, some of which comes from his Ray’s the Steaks restaurant a few doors down. Charred over an open flame and cooked to order, they eat like steaks; you can even order one “au poivre.”

You’ll pay up to $5 extra for certain fancy cheeses, including a wonderfully runny Époisses, but a Danish bleu and a smoky mozzarella are both a buck. Embellishments such as sherried mushrooms and caramelized onions come free. So do the sides: corn on the cob and watermelon wedges.

If we have a complaint, it’s with the sesame brioche bun, which is too puffily thick and tends to be dry. But that’s a quibble. As long as Landrum’s manning the meat grinder, we’re game to go to hell anytime.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.