By Denise Clay
Getting stuck somewhere by a natural disaster is never fun.
You’re far from home. You’re worried about everyone. You wonder how you’re going to get home and what’s waiting for you there. And to make things worse, you have to hit the mall for clean underwear.
But when I found myself stuck in Washington, D.C. this past weekend because Hurricane Irene decided to crash the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication that I was in town to cover, I got to visit a burger joint so good that even the President has been known to stop by… although I’m pretty sure that Michelle Obama in no way approves of the stuff her husband Barack indulges in when he gets there.
He probably tells her he’s going to Hell.
Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, that is.
Located in a strip mall at 1725 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Ray’s Hell Burger is an upscale hamburger joint owned by Michael Landrum, who from what I can see is DC’s version of our Stephen Starr. He owns two other upscale places, Ray’s The Steaks and Ray’s the Classics, in the DC area.
But when my friend Brian asked me if I wanted to try it out, he pointed out what made the joint nationally known. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev stopped in for some burgers last June and since that picture went out all over the country, people have been stopping by ever since. There’s even a map that allows you to put a pin on the place you call home.
Combining toppings such as seared foie gras and truffle oil, bone marrow with persillade, mushrooms sautéed in sherry and cognac and imported double cream brie with burgers cooked Au Poivre, blackened, with a spicy Diablo sauce or just plain grilled, it’s easy to see why you might want to bring an international guest in for one.
The burgers themselves were named after a combination of hip-hop icon such as the Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher and Fat Joe and 70s era icons such as The Mack and James Brown.
Also, here’s where I tell you that they’re not cheap. Prices range from the Build Your Own Burger, which starts at $6.99 and can double in price depending on toppings to the Fat Joe, whose combination of Seared Foie Gras with a Balsamic Glaze, White Truffle Oil, Crispy Shallots, Vine-Ripened Tomato will set you back $16.99…for just the burger.
I had the Soul Burger Number One, which was a grilled burger with grilled red onions, Swiss cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, the aforementioned mushrooms, and barbecue sauce. Brian had the Big Punisher, which started with the spicy Diablo burger and finished with Pirhana sauce, charred jalapenos, grilled onions and pepper jack cheese. We also got an order of sweet potato fries and an order of the Seven Cheese Macaroni.
My burger was, for want of a better way to put it, huge. I had to cut it in half and didn’t finish it, something they were counting on because to-go boxes were stationed at the door. It was so juicy that more than one set of napkins was required and the onions and mushrooms really stood out.
Brian’s Big Punisher was spicy, but not in a way that makes your taste buds run away in revolt. While it was hot, he said, it was also tasty.
We both loved the Sweet Potato Fries because, unlike at other places, these fries were crunchy and light with a slight sweetness. I started out eating mine with Dijon mustard, but after a few minutes, put the mustard away because the fries had brought their own goodness.
But the thing that we really, really liked was the Seven Cheese Macaroni. The noodles were tender and the cheese, well the cheese sauce used for this was perfect. If I hadn’t been so filled up by the burger, I’d have tried to eat two of three servings of this myself. This is amazing stuff!
Like I said, Ray’s Hell Burger isn’t cheap. You’re gonna have to bring your wallet to eat there.
But if you’re in DC visiting the King Monument, and you want to have a burger fit for the President, I suggest you stop on by. You won’t be disappointed.
****-Four out of five stars.
Ray’s Hell Burger
1725 Wilson Blvd between N. Quinn and N. Rhodes Streets, Arlington, Va.
Hours: 11:00 am-10:00 pm daily
Credit Cards: Not accepted, but there is a fee-free ATM in the restaurant.