Ray’s Hell-Burger Is Temporarily Closed, but Owner Michael Landrum Is Offering Free Burgers

A beef with the landlord leads to gratis beef for all.

This amazing sandwich, the Mack, is on the menu at Ray’s to the Third—still open in Arlington. Photograph by Scott Suchman

So we have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the latter. ArlNow reported Wednesday that Ray’s empire builder Michael Landrum has temporarily closed Ray’s Hell-Burger and Hell-Burger Too in Rosslyn. Though the restaurateur couldn’t delve into too many details due to legal repercussions, the shutterings are a result of disputes with the landlord of Colonial Village Shopping Center, where the two eateries are located.

“Landlord has changed the locks,” reads a sign on the door. “Do not unlock this door under penalty of damages.”

Regardless of the nature of the argument, the dark windows come at cruel timing for the visitors hoping to celebrate inauguration with a juicy burger favored by President Obama himself. But now, the good news: Ray’s to the Third across the street is not only offering the Hell-Burger menu, it’s also dishing up “little devils”—full third-pound patties, versus the ten-ounce behemoths—for free on Sunday, January 20, and Inauguration Monday.

Landrum writes in to that he’ll serve the burgers with Vermont cheddar and tomato (Dijon mustard optional), plus a small side, at no cost from Ray’s to the Third to celebrate the President’s swearing-in. Well, technically they’re at no cost. There’s a requested $5 donation that’ll be delivered in full to the Boys and Girls Club in Northeast and Alexandria (though Landrum plans to make up for the “cheapskates” out of pocket). Other disclosed caveats include:

“Burgers will be cooked to medium (and may well lose pinkness to carry-over cooking, affecting color but not juiciness). Special orders, outside of no cheese for those who can’t take it off themselves, most likely to not be possible or honored, at least not pleasantly, depending on length of line. One per person physically present (exceptions made for the elderly, the infirm, or children—who will all die if you use them to lie in order to score extra dithyramburgers [free burgers]).”

Also good news: Openings and closings don’t mean the end for the mercurial Michael Landrum, at least not in the past. Though Ray’s East River seems to have permanently shuttered, we’ve seen semi-closures and handwritten signs before—remember the whole Steak and Cheese opening/closing/reopening?—and both the man and his meat have always come back out on top. In the meantime, head to the Third for gratis patties and Hell-Burger signatures both to eat-in and to go.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.