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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Counter service

Mon 5:00pm–10:00pm
Tue–Thu noon–10:00pm
Fri–Sat noon–11:00pm
Sun noon–10:00pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards None

Arlington, VA
1713 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA
(703) 841-0001
Ray’s Hell-Burger
A gutter-sprawling food coma of near-religious ecstasy

Carnivores of DC rejoice! Ray of Ray’s the Steaks has rented the next room over in an Arlington strip mall and opened a burger joint. Not only does it share the sparse décor and down-to-earth vibe of Ray’s, it also uses the same meat. Holy cow—that means the possibility of enjoying your ground beef bloody.

Like its steakhouse neighbor, Ray’s Hell-Burger is not an aesthete’s hangout. Vintage horror movie posters lend a macabre touch to the institutional fluorescent lighting and cheap plastic furniture. The grill station in the back is what you’d find in high-school football concession stands across America with baskets of potato chips and chalkboard menus vibrating to the hum of an ice cream freezer.

Yet devotees of Ray’s will tell you that this sparseness is the point; there is a clear mission here, and it is meat. And what a joy it is. Diners can choose mounds of toppings (mostly free) to festoon their burger, from grilled vegetables to various cheeses. If you really want to pimp out your sandwich, you can opt for a $4 designer cheese (nice, stinky Époisses, for instance, or aged Danish blue), or dress the thing up like steak au poivre. We’re partial to the Diablo burger, with chipotle sauce, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, and blue cheese; it’s a sensory barrage of full-bodied flavor. Still, it’s hard to argue that anything does a better job of burrowing straight to the pleasure centers of your brain than simple bacon and Vermont cheddar.

Regardless, what will arrive at your table is a concoction of heroic proportions, with freshly ground meat that falls apart at the touch. It will be sensuously soft and impossibly juicy, a sloppy, delicious, lustful mess that can magically be consumed without feelings of sickness. You will notice the absolute silence descend upon diners as all consciousness is focused on the masterpiece before them.

Some quirks to beware of: Ray’s Hell-Burger only accepts cash, and is annoyingly deficient in French fries. Furthermore, their greasy, overly rich mac and cheese preparation is not very good, and it’s often impossible to find seating. But for a burger like this, you’ll be willing to squat in the street. If you can handle it, a pitcher of root beer (on tap) or a float will immediately send you into a gutter-sprawling food coma of near religious ecstasy. All hail the Hell-Burger.

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