Tiff mentioned in The Daily Feed that Michael Landrum has a new restaurant near Ray’s the Steaks called Butcher Burger, and tonight we gathered up a bunch of hungry folks and gave it a try. Seven of us descended on the Little Shopping Center of Big Eats(1) to try it out. The sign, in a simple picture frame in the window, reads Ray’s Hell Burger. There is no overhead sign, so look for it next to the pack-n-ship place on the DC side of the LSCoBE. We walked in for dinner around 7:30, and had only a little wait. Of course, as soon as we’d ordered the line had gotten quite long.
The wait is worth it. Sure, the burger’s $7 or so, but it’s huge at 10oz, and it’s the same beef that Landrum has made famous at his steakhouses in DC (which I consistently maintain are the best steaks within an hour of the Mall) which means you’re in for some absolutely top drawer burgers.
We weren’t disappointed. Two of us had au poivre burgers, one had the Diablo burger (blackened), and the rest had the regular grilled burgers. This is where Hell Burger begins to shine. After you pick your burger, it’s topping time. Let’s start with the cheese, shall we? Smoked mozzarella. Gouda. Stilton. Traditional bleu cheese, in three varieties, Gruyère. That’s just a small sampling of the various options you have for adding dairy, for a small price.
Of course, after they’ve tempted you with dairy goodness, it’s time to head to the other toppings. How about some sherried/brandied mushrooms? Maybe some applewood bacon? Guacamole, perhaps? Grilled onions float your boat? How about some roasted garlic? These are all options, some free, some for a nominal fee.
There are no fries at Hell Burger, which some of our party took objection to. The burgers themselves would be excellent with a plate of extra crispy, thin shoestring potatoes fried in some peanut oil, but that isn’t how they’re served. They’re served with half an ear of fresh corn, and a wedge of watermelon, picnic-style. The only thing missing was a splash of cole slaw. I admire the attempt at uniqueness, not to mention something that will put all your focus on the main course, and not on the burger itself. However, I found myself wanting some tasty fries.
The burger? Really quite good. It was a bit more rare than I’d intended it to be, having ordered it medium. So be ready to order one or more levels of doneness higher than you’d like it to be prepared to compensate. The au poivre preparation was excellent, both peppery and savory. Ben, who tried the Diablo, commented that he was expecting a burger that caused him to break out in a sweat, which his did not do, despite the lack of AC inside the restaurant.
One of the big drawbacks of the place is that there’s nothing there except burgers. So, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, like Brittany is, you’re pretty much going home hungry. A few of the other great burger joints in town offer a vegetarian option, and I can understand if Meatmonger Landrum won’t play that tune, but there’s no excuse for not having a major-league grilled cheese sandwich, especially with all those delicious cheeses. The soda selection, as evidenced by the above pictured Cheerwine, is eclectic and unique. Don’t expect to get a fountain soda, and the pedestrian options (Pepsi/Coke) are off the table. In fact, the only diet soda option was a Diet Creme Soda from Boylan’s.
Seating’s an issue, so be ready to order and stake out a table, or be willing to go the takeout route. Hell Burger will be open from 5 on the weekdays and noon on the weekends. I hope they open one or two days a week for lunch. But that’s just me. Go try it out. I’ll be looking forward to them getting the bugs out of the whole works. The buns could use some work, as they get soggy pretty quickly, and are generally tasteless. Perhaps some fries, Michael? Maybe with some of that roasted garlic?
Ray’s Hell Burger
1713 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
(1) Ray’s the Steaks, Greenberry’s Coffee, Guajillo, Pho 75 and now Ray’s Hell Burger in one small space. Tiny little parking lot, too, sadly. ↩