Cheap Eats 2016: Ray’s Hell Burger

The Brimstone Burger at Ray's Hell Burger, which has locations on every metro line. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Good Drinks

The crowds have long since died down, and President Obama no longer is showing up to treat a head of state to a quintessential taste of American fast food. But Michael Landrum’s burgers—hand-ground from trimmings of the prime beef he sources for Ray’s the Steaks, his working-class steakhouse—are still as good as ever, thick and dripping with juice. The Mack remains the area standard, the cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion of our dreams, but it’s hard to resist the more clever combos, including a burger topped with chili and jalapeños. Don’t expect atmosphere—seriously, most fast-food joints have more going on in the room—but one of the “adult” milkshakes, spiked with booze, will go a ways toward cocooning you. The unorthodox Landrum recently debuted a “restaurant within a restaurant” at the Arlington location, devoted to what he calls Zemblan cuisine—Nabokov fans will get the reference, though you need not have read the émigré Russian master to appreciate the many varieties of the famed Georgian cheese bread khachapuri on offer, including one topped with superb steak tartare.

Also good: B.I.G. Poppa burger, with blue cheese, mushrooms, and grilled onions; steak-and-cheese with eggs and Swiss; steak-and-cheese with mushrooms, Swiss, and grilled onions; khachapuri with shakshouka; tea service.

See what other restaurants made our 2016 Cheap Eats list. This article appears in our May 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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.

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.