Washington DC flinched when one of its best known restaurants, Ray’s Hell Burger, closed its doors. It broke a cold sweat when Rays Hell Burger Too followed suit. Fortunately, no one seems to be shy about their love for the final restaurant in the chain, Rays to the Third. The burger stop in Arlington draws people from all over the country — and it’s no surprise. You bring up “best burger” lists from anywhere including Washingtonian and The Daily Meal, and Ray’s is sure to be on there. And if you’re within a 50-mile radius of this place, I say you need to make a special trip.
If you’re at Ray’s, there is really only one option for you: the burger. Ray’s “Hell Burger” comes in two sizes: the third-pound “little devil” and the 10-ounce “big devil.” The burgers are cooked to order with any number of interesting ingredients ranging from roasted bone marrow to foie gras, a spicy “purgatory chili” or the feisty heck sauce. What really makes this burger delicious is the quality of the beef; it’s seasoned with just a little bit of salt and pepper, but it’s just top-notch beef.
Ray’s brags that its burgers are made from steak cuts, aged in house, hand trimmed and formed. It absolutely pops in your mouth. It’s an example of how all the gimmicks in the world can’t top good quality ingredients. You could get this burger plain and it would be fantastic. Of course, there are many options for you to try, ranging from the super-spicy Brimstone Burger” with said chili and charred jalapeno peppers, to the B.I.G. Poppa with its bleu cheese and mushrooms sauteed in cognac and sherry. You can pick the toppings, but honestly I don’t know if I can think of any way you could go wrong with such a good burger.
The restaurant is sort of a fast-casual concept. You place an order at the counter, find a table, and then you’re off. But still, interactions with the staff show me they’re a very friendly crowd and the acclaim hasn’t gone to their heads. It’s still a good local-feeling spot.
Washington’s eclectic population means people with a lot of different tastes can be found in the city. So when everyone agrees that one place really rocks, then it’s probably best to listen to them. The modern charm that brings Ray’s into the national spotlight, and drives thousands of out-of-towners into its doors, should not be underestimated. The critics online acclaim this spot to be one of the best burgers in America, and I’m inclined to agree.
- The “big devil” is a huge undertaking — over half a pound. But I found the third-pound “little devil” to be a very reasonable choice.
- If you’re absolutely not going to be convinced to get a burger, fear not — there are a small number of chicken dishes and other sandwiches.
- Ray’s brings out crowds, and big ones. Expect that if you come in on a work day.