HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Stop the presses...Rays Hell Burger Now Serves French Fries

Stopped by Rays today for the first time in maybe 5 months or so. Crowded and crazy just as I remembered it (man, i miss the blissful first few weeks it was open). The quality of the burger seems to be about the same.

Anyways, they now serve fries, which are labeld a "new" item on a chalkboard menu. Not sure how long they've served 'em.

The fries are of the Mcdonalds thin, crispy, and virtually potato-flavor free variety. Our batch was also quite generously salted. They appear to come from a brown paper bag, which is a most curious development.

On the whole, though, they weren't too bad. It just depends on what you're looking for in a fry.

I think I liked Rays better without the fries.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yeah - that's a good and bad post all at the same time. Mixed feelings.

    I think mostly I'm afraid that over time it'll force them into the 5 guys/counter burger/chee burger chee burger league (though on quality each of those is decent).

    But that distinguishing remark is from a Hound, not the masses. The masses will return b/c of fries and I can see they may not always return (or even go) b/c of fries - just b/c of how rooted the majority is to any idea.

    Interesting - at least.

    1. Though the fries sound disappointing, I always bemoaned the lack of fries with such a great burger. Any idea if this will be introduced at his other restaurants, such as Ray's the Classics where the burger is served at the bar?

      1. *runs into posts*
        *praises Buddha, Jah, Hashem, Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost*

        1. Rumor has it these fries are of the frozen variety. Has anyone been able to figure out if they are freshly cut or your typical frozen fry?

          In other news I'm going to see the final act of Angels In America tomorrow night and will find myself at Ray's the Classics for dinner. I usually get the hanger steak because it is probably the most amazing deal and cut in town. That being said, you can also get the Hellburger I believe off of their bar menu. Has anyone tried it outside of the actual Ray's Hellburger joint? Does it taste the same?

          Maybe I'm crazy but that sounds like just the meal I want to have before settling in to a 3 hour play about AIDS, religion, and politics in 1980's NYC :)

          4 Replies
          1. re: Elyssa

            yes, them being frozen is what i hinted at in my original post...them coming from a "brown paper bag" and all. You can see it in plain sight. The guy just slits open a bag and dumps it in the fryer.

            Again, the fries werent horrible, they just werent all that great, especially when paired with such a stellar burger. But no fry can really live up to that burger.

            1. re: CoconutMilk

              "But no fry can really live up to that burger."

              This may be why Michael didn't serve fries in the past. But when Mr. Obama asks for fries, and probably so do many, many other customers, I guess he gives 'em fries.

              I'm sure it's possible to make a good version from frozen pre-cut potatoes, but I expect it takes more than dumping them out of a bag and into a fry basket. Choice of frying oil matters, as does temperature, and frying at a lower temperature to cook the potato and then going into a separate oil bath at a high temperature to finish them works wonders. But it takes time and care, probably something better devoted to keeping up the quality of the burgers.

              1. re: MikeR

                i guess landrum is waiting for michelle obama to bring over the first crop of potatoes from her garden, as the president promised. ;-).

            2. re: Elyssa

              The burger at Ray's the Classics is not the same quality as that at Ray's Hell Burger. I haven't done the side by side comparison, but the I definitely recommend getting burgers at Ray's Hell Burger. Maybe it's just that the staff is focused on the burgers there.

            3. They still serve tator tots, right? I'd rather have those than fries, no matter how much worse they make the meal. Heh heh.

              1. I wish they hadn't given in... I truly believed that you didn't need the fries.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ktmoomau

                  Burgers and fries go together not much you can do about it. A burger without fries is like Cornflakes without the milk.

                2. Had the Fries on wednesday 10.28.09. They were definitely the frozen variety, and not one of the better ones. I understand why he would have added fries to the menu, and have no problem with it, but I wish they were better. Fries that are cut in the store would be an awesome addition to the the great burgers.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: HHavi

                    I do not equate fresh cut with good french fries. Most fresh cut fries, like 5 Guys, are too flabby for me. The important part about fries is that they be cooked twice. The frozen variety are usually pre-fried, so they should turn out very crispy.

                    The tater tots at RHB are also a kind of overly greasy option there for me. I'll take the corn or the cole slaw any day.

                    There are so many french fires in our society that even though I avoid eating them 99% of the time, I still wind up eating a pretty good amount. I guess I'm one of those wierdos that prefers to eat his burger without fries or cheese, two items which are multiplying exponentially in our food chain.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I've only had flabby fries once at 5 Guys (this was at the location at Rt. 7 & Beauregard St) and they were just old and tired. I asked for a fresh replacement and it was fine.

                      The trick at 5 Guys is to lay teh bag down on the table, dump the fries out of the styrofoam cup and spread them out over the paper. It absorbs some oil, and because they aren't all bunched up together, the potatoes don't get soft from steaming. It also helps to have a partner along so you don't have to eat that huge quantity yourself.

                      That brings up another point with Ray's HellFries that I don't recall seeing mentioned - how big is an order and how much does it cost? I get fries at 5 Guys maybe once every three visits because there's three times as much as I can eat in a "regular" size order (though it's quite a bargain, pricewise for that quantity).

                      1. re: MikeR

                        I dont remember the cost, but there are small and large fries available and we got the small, which was enough for two if you both get burgers and just want a handful of fries to munch on. Then again, next time I go I may not get any fries. We'll see.

                        There's an interesting dialogue going on at DonRockwell and Michael Landrum himself has chimed in on the fry issue. It looks as though I was there the very first night of fry service. Landrum says they are a work in progress and changes are still possible, if not likely.

                        I bet that in the next few weeks or months the fry dilemma will be all sorted out and Ray's will come out of it just fine--and perhaps with a truly great fry. I seem to recall a similar issue with the burger buns in the first few weeks of the operation as well.

                        1. re: CoconutMilk

                          Right. I remember the early "break apart" buns at Ray's Hell Burger. I've only been there twice, once early on, the second time after they changed the buns which was an improvement (and they had stopped recommending cutting the sandwich in half). It's been too much like Hell since to try it again to see other progress.

                      2. re: Steve

                        i always order fries (haven't had ray's) "extra crispy."

                        1. re: Steve

                          I prefer flabby (or soft) fries. I loathe the crispy variety. Cooks all the life and taste out the potato. Five Guys actually used to make them soft and now it's almost always crispy (at least at my location), which is a reason I don't go as often anymore. Cooked twice, really? Why?

                          1. re: biscuit

                            twice cooked is the french fry method. oil blanch to cook through & cool to room temp. then fry again at higher heat to brown and crisp: http://www.mvproduce.com/ffries.html

                            1. re: biscuit

                              If you go to France or Belgium - both places famous for their fries - I'm pretty sure you'd have trouble finding 'frites' that weren't cooked twice.

                            2. re: Steve

                              I am probably disappointed in 99% of fries. And with a really good burger, bad fries brings down the experience more than not having fries. I have ranted about fries in other posts though so I will save it suffice to say that Central not only makes a great burger, but fantastic fries, both really compliment one another.

                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                Central also uses a fresh potato, ktmoomau. The recipe that is in Michel Richard's cookbook is the same one he uses for the french fries he serves. I note this because Thomas Keller has a similar recipe in his Bouchon cookbook yet the fries served in Bouchon are frozen. And they taste like it.

                                1. re: Joe H

                                  To Fry or not to fry...a serious problem for Chowhounds, but not really for Ray.
                                  He obviously thinks that fries aren't a worthy side for his succulent burgers and I tend to agree. However, as a businessman he understands the law of guest satisfaction. I am sure even though the fries are frozen they come from a reputable supplier, and a decent side to his great burgers. I can not imagine eating a bag of fresh cut fries which tend to absorb a lot of oil, probably "peanut," and then try and eat that beautiful burger. At Ray's it's all about the burger not the fries.

                                  1. re: Joe H

                                    Is Michel Richard's cookbook good? I might have to glance at a copy next time I am in there.

                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                      It is excellent. Keller's cookbook is also-he is very refined. My problem is that while the French Laundry and Per Se are superb we were honestly disappointed at Bouchon in Vegas. One of the most disappointing dishes were his french fries. When I came back I looked up the recipe which calls for fresh potatoes. Bouchon serves frozen. (Forgive me but I think I can taste the difference.) I just have some difficulty with a recipe in a cookbook that is different from what is served in the restaurant-but that's me!

                                      Still, ktmoomau, Michel and Keller are great chefs each with an outstanding cookbook well worth having.
                                      There is an interesting thread on Chowhound's "General" board right now about this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664237

                            3. WOW! About dang time. I love Ray's Hell Burger but always felt they needed fries. I guess that means I have to make a trip out there :). Thanks for letting us know!

                              1. I tried the fries tonight and they're decent - not up to the high standard of the burgers, but they're fine. Most were moderately crisp and they're skin-on. I never thought Ray's needed to serve fries as the burgers are so large, but I get that people like fries with their burgers.

                                I will say that on my last two visits that the burgers have been noticeably less thick. I'm really hoping this has been a fluke and that the size has not been permanently changed. Tonight, I tried the dogcatcher for the first time and it was so greasy. I don't know if it was the addition of the bone marrow, but by the time I ate the second half the bottom of the bun was completely soaked with grease. Still the best burger around, but I won't try that combo again.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: cookiegirl

                                  Do you remember the price for the fries? And quantity? Enough for two (as in "too much for one sane person to order")? I'd pay an extra buck for a dozen or so fries on the side but not half the price of the burger for a couple of potatoes worth that I can't possibly eat.

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    I got the small, which I believe was $1.75. There is also a large for (I think) $2.50. The small is definitely a reasonable size for one person (not at all like Five Guys) and could be shared if each person just wanted a dozen or so fries.

                                    1. re: cookiegirl

                                      Thanks for the price/size report. That sounds reasonable. I was afraid that the fries would be priced at $5.95 or so as if to say "You said you wanted fries, so THERE!!!"

                                      Of course with a Ray's burger being three times the size of a Five Guys burger, I can't eat as many fries. I guess it's still going to be a never ending battle of the bulge.

                                      1. re: cookiegirl

                                        OK, I did it today! A small order of fries is indeed $1.75, and the quantity is just right for the size of the burger. Judging by what was left when I lost count (something distracted me, could have been the burger) I'd say that there were about 30 fries in the small order, not counting the half dozen or so shards - pieces shorter than about 1-1/2". They were nicely cooked and served piping hot, not greasy at all. I liked them, and enjoyed dunking them in the Henry's Catsup that was on the table.

                                        The fries were served in a plaid cardboard slope-sided 8 oz food tray, about 3-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches on the open side, comfortably full but not heaped to overflowing, like this one:.

                                        The burger was the messiest I've had there so far, probably because of the combination of toppings - mushrooms, grilled onions, and roasted garlic. The juice from the mushrooms and onions, plus the juice from the burger, made the bun disintegrate after a few bites. I deconstructed it and ate it open face. Still good. This was my first time at the "new" Ray's Hell Burger, and it was practically empty at about 2:30 PM. Don't tell anyone. I seem to remember that the old place had a tray with real metal forks and knives but I could only find plastic in the new place. Times are tough all over.

                                    1. So I finally went back to Ray's Hell Burger today after not having been there for 3 months or so. I was excited to try the fries and came from Gaithersburg to eat here. I was sadly disappointed with my sweet potato fries, and yes, they sure tasted tasteless and right out of a frozen bag. I confirmed this, asking them the question I always ask before ordering fries "Are they frozen out of a bag?" If they say yes, I rarely order them. Because it was Ray's, I thought they may come out of an amazing, special, yet frozen bag. Unfortunately I was wrong. The sweet potato fries were very weak, but almost totally grease free. I would never, ever order them again.

                                      I tried one of my Uncle's regular fries and it was a sad fry at best. I kept thinking to myself, if this is a gourmet, top of the line burger joint with great sides, why, oh why would they offer such a miserable french fry with no potato flavor at all?

                                      Or, am I so totally spoiled by the wonderful 5 Guys perfect hand cut fry that I'm unable to eat frozen fries ever again? 5 Guys is my favorite. I always split them with at least one or 2 other people, the small. Their spicy ones are wonderful. I'm guessing that Ray's doesn't do the hand cut fries because... it's too much, way too much work? Right?

                                      I would never order any type of fries at Ray's again. My uncle liked his burger, and couldn't finish it. I much prefer the atmosphere at the original Ray's Hellburger a few stores down. We tried the "newer" spot tonight and though the girls at the counter were lackadaisical, and couldn't really help us with a suggestion when we asked. They were more like "Can I take your order? The menus are on the wall. I don't know the answer to that question so just order". There has been an attitude shift there to my perception.

                                      Also, where the heck is the dessert?!? They had ice cream at the old place. I love dessert, but I didn't see anything on the menu, wall or anywhere about ice cream still being available. Many people like a sweet treat after a burger. They should have brownies, blondies and home made cookies, at the very least, on the counter as you pay. Lastly, we got there at 425pm on a freezing cold Saturday and every single seat except for 2 were filled! When we left at 510pm, it was even more crowded. Who are all these people that eat dinner at ... 425pm? :o)

                                      Rant over. I'll still go back for a burger, macaroni cheese and cole slaw. I always take out of towners there and they love it.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: stever500

                                        Root beer floats. I had one yesterday with my burger and no fries. The perfect sweet I thought.

                                        1. re: stever500

                                          "Or, am I so totally spoiled by the wonderful 5 Guys perfect hand cut fry that I'm unable to eat frozen fries ever again? "

                                          I don't like 5 Guys fries so much because I think they're flabby. I prefer crispy, twice-cooked fries to the fresh ones. I had the sweet potato fries at RHB with another Chowhound, and we both thought they were perfection.

                                          So to each his own.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            Good to hear about the Root Beer Floats. Didn't notice it on the menu. I'll have to try one as I haven't had one in at least 20 years.

                                            Steve: Yes, to each his own. The thought the sweet potato fries were seriously lacking in any actual flavor. They were really hot so maybe my tongue was a little burnt! Flabby or not, the 5 Guy's Fries have a great true potato flavor for me. Different strokes... I used to like Houston's fries a lot too. They were delicious to my tastebuds.

                                            1. re: stever500

                                              I like the idea of sweet potato fries, but I've never really cared for what I've tasted, plus they're always more expensive than white potato fries (and sweets are almost always cheaper in the grocery store) so I've stopped ordering them.

                                              I most often go to the Five Guys at King St (rt 7) & Beauregard or Lee Highway & Gallows Rd and only once, a couple of years ago, have I received limp fries, which were also barely lukewarm. I took them back to the counter, asked for some fresh ones from the next batch out of the fryer, and that batch was up to the usual quality.

                                              I've finally figured out how to re-heat them satisfactorily in the oven, so I take the leavings from a "regular" order home and have two more portions. I keep sending them comments that they should have a "small" or "old, retired people who should watch what they eat" sized order. Maybe some day they will, but they seem to be pretty proud of giving great value for the money.

                                            2. re: Steve

                                              That's odd, because my local Five Guys cooks them to a crispy death (the way you like them) and I have to ask them to make them "soft" (eh, not using your word). Maybe it's because Five Guys is incredibly inconsistent, though I still find myself going there. Pavlov, anyone?

                                              Ray's fries are decent, but who goes there for the fries? The burgers are the best in town.