Based on the recommendations in the NDCA Dining post (and a few others received via backchannel), it was clear that Ray’s Hell Burger was not to be missed. One of several restaurants in the portfolio of Michael Landrum, a man the Washington Post calls “the enfant terrible of Washington dining,” Ray’s Hell Burger is a unique amalgamation of upscale ingredients and a no-frills, no-nonsense atmosphere. Where else can you get a burger with Seared Foie Gras With A Balsamic Glaze, White Truffle Oil, Crispy Shallots, and Vine-Ripened Tomato? Or one with Roasted Bone Marrow, Persillade, Lettuce and Tomato?
I opted for The Big Punisher, which at $7.95 is one of the cheapest burgers on the menu (prices range from $7.95 to $17.50 for the “The Burger of Seville”). A spicy smorgasbord of flavor, it is “Diablo-Grilled and Brushed With Our Spicy Chipotle Marinade” and topped with Pepper Jack Cheese, Charred Jalapenos, Grilled Red Onions, and Piranha Sauce (which is described as a “Fiery, Spicy, Green Sauce.”)
Unlike many attempts at OMG SO HOT burgers, the Punisher features a deeper, more complex flavor profile that layers different spices on top of one another to create a rich, mouth-watering complement to the juicy (juicy!) beef. After the first bite, the toasted bun was overwhelmed and the remaining bites required extensive finger-licking and wipes from the conveniently-located-on-every-table roll of paper towel. With a ten ounce patty and generously-sized toppings, the burger provided a satisfying meal all by itself… and that’s good, because there isn’t much else.
Is Ray’s Hell Burger a good spot for you and your squad? If you love burgers and are willing to spend a little more than you would on fast food, a resounding yes. If you’d prefer a more formal atmosphere and don’t relish the thought of a gluttonous burger that drips all over your hands, then Ray’s is probably not for you. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you should definitely stay away. Otherwise, the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere was high-school-student-friendly, at least on the Friday night that we visited. Enjoy!