National Hamburger Week Day 2: Ray’s to the Third, Arlington
We were justifiably upset when the iconic joint Ray’s Hell Burger was given the boot from its small Arlington strip mall at the beginning of this year. And even after learning Michael Landrum was offering his burgers just across Wilson Boulevard, we were still unsure if it would be the same.
Desperately in need of a fix and eager to see if the goodness made the move, we made Ray’s to the Third our Day 2 destination for National Hamburger Week. Well, we’re happy –no, ELATED– to report the Hell Burgers, in all their original juicy and beefy glory, are alive and well and just as good as ever on the other side of the street.
The new digs are bigger and not as dive-ish as either the original Hell Burger location or its sequel. Upon entering, you’ll find the restaurant divided into two sections: the right side for seat-your-self counter service and left for traditional, full-service seating. While we’ll always have a spot in our hearts for small, dingy hole-in-the-walls, we welcome the change here. There’s much more elbow room– gone are the cramped quarters and worries about knocking into in your neighbor’s meal. Also, more tables means less time waiting for a seat. Plus, there’s booze.
The whole Hell Burger lineup made the trip (in fact, they’re the very same menus from Nice n’ Greasy). Our regular go-to order at Ray’s varies, but we’ve found the spicy New Jack Zyng to be our favorite of the house-designed options. This time, however, we decided to take a DIY approach and built ours from the ground up. And, we’re not gonna lie, we hit the meat wad right out of the greasy park.
We went au poivre with the beef and its black peppercorn-seared crust was dynamite with a fantastic char and a deep, flavorful peppery bite. It’s always been our favorite of all their patty options. For the toppings, we chose bacon, grilled onions, white cheddar and a most delightful, fried egg. In burgers past, the only real gripe we’ve had with any of Ray’s toppings has been the bacon –we’ve found it a bit chewy at times– but on this visit, it was crispy and on the money. Combined with a burger juicier than the field at the Tour de France, an exquisite runny, butter-fried egg, onions and two slices of properly-melted cheese and we may have peaked just two days into Burger Week. Our only critique was that our medium rare order was without any trace of pink inside, but with a burger this juicy, we couldn’t tell the difference when it came to taste.
Have no fear D.C.– Ray’s Hell Burger didn’t die, it just crossed the street.
Ray’s to the Third | 1650 Wilson Boulevard | Arlington | raystothethird.com