Young and Hungry

Not So Fast: There’s No Deal for a Ray’s Hell Burger in Adams Morgan


In today's Washington Business Journal, Jonathan O'Connell reports that Ray's Hell Burger, the Oval Office's first choice for ground beef patties, will open a branch in Adams Morgan this fall. This news was enough to ruin Y&H's morning since I had spoken with owner Michael Landrum several weeks earlier about this very issue, and he denied any such plans.

So I got Landrum on the horn today to do some 'splainin'. Bottom line: He has no deal in place to open a Hell Burger in the former Ghana Cafe space at 2465 18th St. NW.

Rumors about a Hell Burger in Adams Morgan have surfaced, Landrum says, because of his relationship with Wilma Roumel, who owns the property that houses both Ray's HB in Arlington and the old Ghana Cafe. Landrum says his contractor has been helping Roumel bring the Adams Morgan space up to modern standards.

Landrum has indeed talked to Roumel about opening a Hell Burger in Adams Morgan, he admits, mostly to help relieve some of the pressure on the Arlington location, which has been overrun with fans since the presidential visit in May. But he knows from experience that such diverting strategies don't always work: Landrum's Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring was supposed to divert traffic away from Ray's the Steaks in Arlington, but that hasn't really proven to be the case.

Besides, Landrum notes, "My feeling is that Adams Morgan still presents tremendous challenges for getting open there...I would want to see a lot more police presence and municipal support [in Adams Morgan] before I could commit to a business there."

Landrum's not ruling out the possibility of an Adams Morgan outlet at some point, particularly if the city steps up to better manage the neighborhood and its historic problems with crime and parking. But as for a fall opening in the 'hood?

"I can't even fully well commit to opening my eyes in the near future," he says.

  • RT

    It amazes me when people continue the meme that Adams Morgan is a crime-filled ghetto. It's not. But unfortunately, perception trumps reality.

    And let's be honest- the misplaced perception stems from the fact that "minorities" go there on weekends. Hmmm. Someone needs to tell the media and suburbanites it's not actually scary.

  • 2009

    RT, is your message from 1997?

  • Meatie

    RT, have you ever worked at a bar or late nught eatery that required security? The burger joint will mostly have late nite hours which means it will need a security plan. If its going to serve drunk patrons, the owners what a to maintain a safe environment for their workers and customers. You're inability to see the larger liability issues forces you to latch on to an explanation that has comparatively zero substance. So yes, adams morgan does present other challenges for a late nite eatery that a suburban location on a strip mall doesnthave to deal with.

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  • jules

    Meatie: you're right...its especially true for late night eats in AdMo, where, for some reason, fighting in front of Jumbo Slice at 3 AM is the favorite weekend past time. The owner of Ray's is smart to see this as an issue, not wanting Hellburger to fall into that same category of raucous, late night food joints.

  • MLandrum

    It is not from that standpoint that I experience any hesitation regarding Adams Morgan. Not at all. In fact, I will shortly be opening a family-oriented restaurant at Minnesota and Benning NE.

    My concerns stem from the near total failure of the city to provide any of the necessary municipal services: parking, security, sanitation and traffic flow.

    Not that I don't agree with you that unfounded racist attitudes don't still pervade the public consciousness.

  • Deanwoodenizen

    Bummed about no Ray's Hell Burger in Adams Morgan? Come to Ward 7 Minnesota Ave & Dix Sts. NE for Ray's the Heat!! Show River East some love & $$$.

  • Deanwoodenizen

    Cool, MLandrum! Missed your post just before mine. When will the kitchen open? Our stomachs are growling. BTW let me know if a soft opening is planned and I'll get the community folks out.

  • Petworth

    MLandrum. Why is parking a concern. I don't think anyone has any trouble getting to adams morgan given all the foot traffic. This is a city. we walk, bike, bus, and metro places.

  • Also

    sanitation? lets be real 18th st is hardly bourbon street. and the city is undertaking a streetscape improvement project as we speak. besides the weekend riff raff adams morgan IS a community oriented neighborhood. one that im sure would support a burger joint like rays quite handsomely during the work week.

  • Kristen Barden

    Mr. Landrum please call me at 202-997-0783. I'd be happy to tell you all about what the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District (AMPBID) is doing to keep Adams Morgan safe and clean to the tune of close to $450,000 a year. Like I told the Washington Business Journal...we'd love to have Ray's here. We are working hard to earn his trust.


    Kristen Barden
    Executive Director
    Adams Morgan Partnership BID
    1804 Belmont Road, NW
    Washington, DC 20009

  • dc foodie

    I'm sure that when Mr. Landrum goes to AdMo without smelling piss, watching gridlocked traffic and dodging fighting preppies that he might seriously consider opening a restaurant there. Until then I'm sure we could all find a better location for the next Ray's incarnation.

  • CalvertCrew

    Ray's burgers/steaks is too expensive to be cheap eats and not good enough to be considered top eats, give me a five guys/the prime rib instead.

    Playing the race card on Adam's Morgan would be ignoring the spike in crime that hits every summer when school is out and the local kids are out causing trouble. This usually comes in the form of assault/ armed robbery / occasional homicide.

    Walk around alone with a UVA T-shirt/flipflops on at 3am-4am Saturday/Sunday morning and you'll find out what I'm talking about.

    You can go there any other time and it's a charming neighborhood.

  • JB

    CalvertCrew, Ray's is about $7.50 for a meal if you get it to go with no drink. You want fancy cheese? Then you gonna pay more.

    I would say that is comparable with Five Guys and other places. Considering the quality of the meat at Ray's, it's a steal.

    I don't eat at Five Guys anymore because Ray's burgers are about 10x better.

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  • Scott

    H Street Hell Burger. Come on.