Here in Washington, Volume 2

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Happy Cristoforo Colombo Day, everyone! I don't have to work today, so let's talk about a favorite vacation activity: adding calories!

Last night, some friends and I hit up Ray's Hell Burger, a burger joint in Arlington that was opened by a local gourmand whose other restaurants offer deluxe steaks. So what does a gourmand do when he gets his hands on a burger?

A Hell Burger, from Ray's

Photo shamelessly stolen from local DC food blog The Arugula Files.

First, let me say that Ray's Hell Burger is, hands down, the best burger I've ever had. Beats Five Guys. Beats In-N-Out Burger. And the main reason it's so good is that the burger is a tradeoff between good and bad.

First, the good: the burger itself is a gigantic patty that is fresh-ground on site and cooked to order (they recommend a medium cooked burger with a cool red center). You can get it regular style, au poivre (my personal favorite), cajun, or blackened and spicy. The burger automatically comes with lettuce and tomato and some random side like an orange smile or a piece of watermelon. And then you get to pick your toppings.

Most of the toppings are run-of-the-mill, like mushrooms and onions, and there's the lip-smacking stuff like breaded and buttered pickles, truffle oil, foie gras, and tons upon tons of cheeses. Cheeses range from your standard (and cheap!) staples like American and Swiss to Belgian-imported stuff that costs an additional $10.

Suffice it to say, they hand you this juicy burger with all manner of crazy, tasty toppings and let you build your own masterpiece.

Now, the bad. First, the place is a madhouse. I'm starting to think that Ray's Burger isn't Hellish, it's that the location is Hellish. It's a tiny little establishment off of Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, and it needs to be about two or three times bigger. The seating is arranged like a college cafeteria crammed into way too little space, but don't even think about trying to eat there unless you manage to steal a table the second it opens. Even then, the twisting lines of people will be hovering over your shoulder the entire time. After ordering, you find yourself in everyone's way while you wait for your burger. And eventually, when you actually get it, you have to box it To Go on your own.

And then there's the fact that the burger is so juicy, so delectable, that it starts breaking down the moment you bite into it. Juices come running out and obliterate the bun, so you'll need a stack of napkins nearby. In short, it's an ordeal to procure the burger and an ordeal to eat it.

And that's why Ray's is so awesome: you'll never overdo it. Every six months or so, you'll crave a Hell Burger, the tastiest burger you'll ever cram into your mouth. But never more often than six months, because it's a pain in the ass to eat.

Of course, eating amazing burgers wasn't the only thing I did this long weekend. Keep an eye out for more updates involving my shader and Around The World. And this time, you might get to see me working on something other than a ball!