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Jun 5, 2010 01:49 PM

BGR vs. RHB, The Showdown.

I just got back from my second trip to BGR, The Burger Joint next to the Italian Store. This place has a great hamburger. I thought I'd compare the two now that I have two favorites, the other being Ray's Hell Burger.

BGR serves all dry aged prime ground beef. It is very well seasoned and cooked perfectly, two for two now a perfect medium rare with a good char. At RHB, I don't know what the meat quality is. I think I read somewhere it is a mix of prime and choice. However it too is usually well seasoned. RHB is very inconsistent in its cooking. I always order medium rare and 50% of the time it comes out medium.

The bun is nice and holds up really well at BGR. I find the buns at Ray's Hell Burgers are too big and doughy right now.

The BGR fries are double fried and for 0.49 cents they will put some Parmesan cheese on them for you, which is delicious. The fries are fine at RHB. Bagged, frozen things but not inedible.

They also have very good rich chocolate shakes at BGR. For me, this is almost a must with a burger. RHB has delicious root beer floats, but chocolate shakes they are not.

The BGR ambiance is a bit weird. The music is a bit too loud and is annoying 70's and 80's hits, but the soccer moms were singing along. RHB as we all know has no ambiance.

The staff at BGR is really nice. The cashier recognized me the second time I went in and they are very friendly. I even talked to a couple cooks and they were cool. This is very different from RHB, (any of the Ray's really) where the staff is always aloof and you always feel like they are doing you a favor by serving you and tolerating you. This is obviously from Landrum's eccentric philosophy, but that is just kinda what you have to deal with if you want to eat at a Ray's. One time at RHB I asked if Landrum was cool to his staff and they told me "I don't know, he doesn't talk to us".

The sides are more extensive at RHB as well as the artisan cheeses. This doesn't really bother me personally as I think it is a waste of good epoisse to put it on a burger. I do like the sharp vermont cheddar at RHB. The one time I tried the foie gras burger it was too rich. I just took it off and ate it on the side, I didn't like the two meats together.

I have had a basic bacon cheddar burger and a wellington with bacon at BGR and really enjoyed both. Yes, both with chocolate shakes. I also like that parking is easier at BGR. I will probably be going there more than RHB for burgers. I will still be making Ray's the Steaks my default steakhouse. Might even go tonight.

Good chowing,


Ray's Hell Burger
1713 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209

The Burger Joint
106 N Washington St, Alexandria, VA 22314

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  1. Ray's burgers are too greasy for meat. They give me a nasty stomach ache halfway through. I've had good luck at the particular BGR mentioned. The tuna option at BGRs is great too. I skip all the specialty burgers.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jay

      Calling Ray's burgers greasy is just plain silly. Maybe the fat content is too high for you, though I doubt it's much is any higher than BGR's. Certainly it’s less fatty than fast food places like 5 Guys, so I assume those are too greasy for you as well.

      But calling Ray's burgers greasy is just inaccurate. They're grilled, and they're awesome. Had it with bacon and cheese just last night and still no grease.

      5 Guys
      6210 Quander Rd, Alexandria, VA 22307

    2. as we drove by the very busy BGR last night in lyon village around 9pm and many people were sitting outside at the tables enjoying the (finally cool) evening breeze, i joked that lyon village was becoming the "mini-clarendon" -- with BGR, italian store, starbucks and tarbouch all hopping (tho' italian store was just closing up). ;-)).

      question for ya, sekelman, is the bgr joint run by the same folks who owned and ran the pitiful burrito place, and the wasabi ito before that in the same location?

      7 Replies
      1. re: alkapal

        I don't know. I never went in the burrito place. It doesn't seem likely though. Were the previous two the same person/group?

        1. re: sekelmaan

          yes, the burro grill and wasabi ito were the same group. they were asian.

        2. re: alkapal

          BGR is a small local chain:

          I doubt it's the same people who had the location before.

            1. re: alkapal

              They are TRYING to franchise, but right now all 4 locations are owned and operated by the founder.

              1. re: DanielK

                Having had both within two days of each other a few weeks back I can put myself firmly in the RHB camp. The burgers are more flavorful and supremely juicy. I also prefer the toppings at RHB, even though I generally go pretty simple with mushrooms, grilled onions, and a few more add-ons.

                BGR makes a very good burger, but its too pricey for the size. RHB's patties are almost twice the size. I paid 13 bucks for a burger (with no cheese or bacon, which would have driven up the price even more), a drink, and sweet potato fries at BGR and I left partially satisfied. I finished the burger in five bites and spent most of the meal feeling guilty about eating all my fries (of which there were many) because I was so hungry.

                1. re: CoconutMilk

                  I have gone back and forth on the burger wars, I was an early fan of 5 Guys, prior to the unfettered chain expansion. And I have loved RHB ever since they opened, though I go seldom due to sky high cholesterol levels. With Rays I love the quality of the beef and the fixings are great in their near infinite permutations. But Rays is almost too much of a good thing. And it does vary in doneness, I have had my medium rare come out medium well and my medium come out medium rare. The fries are fairly good, not great.
                  Hit BGR for a Wellington, medium, with onion rings yesterday. The medium was a bit closer to medium well, no red and barely a touch of pink. I have to imagine that this is harder than it looks because I seldom get the same result twice. The wellington is very rich albeit a smaller chunk of richness than a Rays burger, which is a good thing, except for the fact that the comparable Big Poppa at Rays is bigger and cheaper. And the onion rings are so big as to be nearly unmanageable, and greasy like a blooming onion at Outback Steakhouse. My Wellington, onion rings and coke was $16+, for a burger. Wow.
                  The winner is.... I kind of like them both but I will go to Rays more, it is better beef, nice char, bun is almost as good, fries are good, albeit not great, outstanding root beer, Rays is the winner by a nose.

        3. BGR makes a delicious, compact, and very juicy burger. Cooked exactly medium rare. As much as I like RHB, I've never had a truly medium rare at Ray's. This is an excellent burger.

          I highly doubt I'll ever order a shake again. Strawberry is thin and waaaay too sweet. Key Lime Pie was thin with a nasty flavor. Terrible waste of money.

          Key Lime Cafe
          207 N Talbot St, Saint Michaels, MD 21663

          4 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            I am so surprised about that shake Steve. The two chocolate ones I have gotten were rich and chocolatey and hard to get through the straw.

            1. re: sekelmaan

              Maybe it was an aberration. They were slammed. We also ordered a vanilla that tasted ok but was also thin. Nothing like Good Stuff Eatery.

              Good Stuff Eatery
              303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

            2. re: Steve

              I had BGR in Bethesda and thought it was overcooked and didn't have enough salt. It was hard to eat. But, it was only once and I haven't been back.

              1. re: chowser

                That's so interesting. I went to BGR in Arlington and my burger was incredibly oversalted. And I like salt.

            3. I love Ray's - for the quality of the meat, the juiciness, the quality and variety of toppings and the bang for the buck. What I don't like is the location. I'd go a lot more often if it were more convenient.

              I've been to BGR (Dupont and Bethesda) several times. I think their burgers are good, but overpriced for what they are. I used to like their chocolate shake until I got hooked on the shakes at Good Stuff. Now, BGR's shakes just aren't worth the calories. I've never had fries at either place. I think comparing BGR burgers with Good Stuff burgers is a more fair comparison than RHB vs. BGR.

              For me, it's 1) Ray's 2) Good Stuff 3) BGR -- but they are all good, and location always figures into the equation. If each had only one location and they were all in the same block, I'd get a shake from GS and a burger from Ray's and have them together -- under those circumstances, I doubt I'd ever go to BGR ... and then I'd move so I lived near that block. :-)

              5 Replies
              1. re: woodleyparkhound

                I am bound for Good Stuff. I honestly forgot about this place. But I may be excused that as I forget a lot of what is across the river. Now I want to try it. Thanks a lot!

                1. re: sekelmaan

                  It's definitely worth checking out. You MUST get a shake there! Personally, I prefer the Black and White, but there is a ton of love on this board for the Toasted Marshmallow. And their regular chocolate shake is WAY better than BGR's. Also, another tip for GS - don't fail to notice their homemade mayos that are to the right when you enter, near the soda machine. I think the way to go is to get a burger without the sauce that they add behind the counter and use the homemade mayo instead (I like the siracha mayo the best, followed by the chipotle.) It's lunchtime; this is really making me hungry!

                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    Yeah. I have seen the marshmallow shake stuff. I will do black and white. Thanks for the mayo tip. I love sriracha mayo which I make at home a lot.

                    1. re: sekelmaan

                      All the shakes are great, but the toasted marshmallow is otherworldly.

                    2. re: woodleyparkhound

                      Good stuff's shakes are good. The place is pretty inconvenient to me unless I'm in town for some other reason.

                2. Though I am a fan of BGR, the so-called lobster roll is NOT one, and should be avoided. Whole claws on slider rolls, with a little mayo. Mea culpa. I will go with what the place does right - variety burgers and fries, and will leave the lobster roll to Kinkeads (probably) .

                  Kinkead's Restaurant
                  2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006-1812

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: nickdanger

                    Pres. O took Medvedev to RHB today. Now it'll be mobbed forever.

                    1. re: chowsearch

                      OMG. That is horrible news. The queues are going to go crazy again!

                      I am going to Good Stuff when I get back into town on Monday.

                      1. re: chowsearch

                        Ha ha, beat me to it! I just got back from my usual lunch walk up Wilson and saw the whole entourage. Score one for RHB on the publicity front.

                        1. re: chowsearch

                          Oh no... it's really true. Bad news for us locals who like RHB, but still I have to admit -- I think this is a GREAT place to take a foreign guest! Foreigners (albeit not foreign dignitaries, perhaps) often think "hamburger" means "McDonald's". I love the idea of showing a guest what an American hamburger can be.


                          1. re: woodleyparkhound

                            How annoying is that that you have to register to read a Washington Post article. Thanks for the link in any case.

                            1. re: woodleyparkhound

                              If that Montana ketchup Ray's has on the tables doesn't persuade Medvedev to come over to our side re: missile defense, then I dunno what will... LOL!

                            2. re: chowsearch

                              Those out-of-town tourists are wrecking our NOVA joints again!

                              1. re: chowsearch

                                What a stroke of luck. I was thinking of going there for lunch today but decided to go somewhere I knew would have fewer people to soak up the air conditioning. Glad of it!

                                1. re: chowsearch

                                  I'm surprised that the news articles didn't make a thing about the fries. Remember that when POTUS was there with Veep, he was disappointed that Ray's didn't have fries. This time, they split an order of fries. Least he could have done was said "Oh, I see that you took my suggestion and now you have fries. I'll try an order." Now THAT would be diplomatic.

                                  1. re: chowsearch

                                    That statement alone is enough for me to swear off RHB in favor of BGR forever. BGR blows RHB away as far as the meat in the burger goes. The mojo sauce is just additional bliss.