Ray’s Hell Burger – Arlington [Update]

24 08 2011

The other week I went out to dinner with Spikes. Neither of us were in the mood for anything fancy, so when the possibility of burgers was brought up I immediately suggested Ray’s. Seeing as how it was a Saturday night at 8:30, Ray’s was obviously crowded. I got my usual order of the Big Punisher cooked medium, which was as excellent as I remembered. We also got an order of fries to split, making it the first time I got a side at Ray’s.

Ray's Hellburger
Why did we order the fries?

The fries were fairly standard for thick cut fries. They weren’t on the level of Thrasher’s fries or even on that of Five Guys. They were solid, but they were not at the same level of quality as the burger. Also on top of the burger they were really just too much food. I probably wouldn’t order fries again, I’d like to avoid the uncomfortable fullness we felt in the future (although I could be swayed by some onion rings). 

Apparently the fries served are frozen, due to the lack of space in the kitchen available to facilitate fresh cut fries. Given the scope of business they conduct and how packed in the dine-in area is, I believe it. Apparently Ray’s is opening another location, Ray’s Hell burger III, which will have the kitchen space to serve fresh cut fries. But until Ray’s III opens up I would suggest saving your money and stomach space.

Note: The picture pictured above is not my own. It is a picture of an order of fries and a Big Punisher. Clicking on it will take you to the original site.


Thai Square – Arlington

25 07 2011

 “Marge, this is Thai food.  From now on, I want it morning, noon, and night. ” – Homer Simpsons

Thai Square

Do not let the plain exterior fool you

Thai restaurants are like opinions, everyone’s got one. Some people though are willing to change their opinions, when presented with a better argument while others are stuck in their ways. Thai Square is the latest and greatest restaurant in Gchat’s rotation, so we figured it had to be worth our time. Thai Square is tucked into a small strip on Columbia Pike and driving by it, you could miss it a thousand times (I’ve only driven by it once a week for 4 months).

TS Interior

In the words of Outkast, "So Fresh and So Clean"

Unlike Tiananmen, Thai Square can best be described as cozy. When we entered there was only one available table of four. Another quick I noted upon entering the restaurant was how many Asian patrons there were (always a good sign). After perusing their beer selection I ordered a Singha Lager for my meal. Being the copy cats that they are, Spikes and Gchat followed suit. I forgot how good pale lagers are until a weeks ago when I had a can of Sapporo. The crispness offered by these beers is just perfect during the heat of summer (it was 102 that day). The waitress brought the beers with what appeared to be midget pilsner glasses which vaguely resembled egg cups. The Singha was a pretty typical Asian-produced lager, but that’s okay as I generally enjoy them. If I did have my choice though, I would probably take a Sapporo over the Singha though.


Good enough for the King of Thailand, good enough for me

For dinner I ordered the Roasted Duck in Red Curry Sauce. My several most recent Thai orders have consisted of some form of curry, so when I saw the duck, it was a no-brainer. Spikes had ordered the Pad Thai Jae (vegetarian) and Gchat the Yellow Curry, both of which looked delicious.


Yes Sir, Mr. Ducksworth.

I generally enjoy curry’s with a sweet component as it adds an extra depth of flavor and helps smooth out the heat of the dish. The coconut milk often found in Thai curries usually accomplishes this goal, adding an overall sweetness that was contrasted by the burst of sweetness caused when you ate one of the pineapple chunks. The depth and diversity of the sweet flavors of this dish was great, but at times it overpowered the heat of the curry causing the dish to not be as hot as I desired. I didn’t specify how spicy I wanted the curry to be as I assumed it would be spicy enough for me, however next time I’ll probably ask that they don’t dull the heat down to American levels. The duck, where do I start with the duck? Oh yeah, succulent. It just fell apart in your mouth and achieved the perfect tenderness before starting to fall apart and be stringy. Duck is one of those foods where every time I eat it I think to myself, “Why don’t I eat this more often?”, but then never really act on it. I would definitely think about ordering this again, but if I did I would definitely ask them to make it spicier to even out the heat versus the sweet.

While I’ll probably still use my neighborhood Thai restaurant for carry out due to the convenience factor, I’d rather go to Thai Square for a sit-in meal. The food was excellent and priced reasonably well, the decor was clean and simple, and the service was satisfactory; all important components in an enjoyable dining experience. I would rate the service higher but it took a while for us to get the bill which was odd considering how fast the food arrived at our table.

Note: The only image used in this review that is my own is the Singha Beer. Clicking on the other images will take you to the original source.

Thai Square Website

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District Taco – Arlington

30 03 2011

“You had me at taco.” – Taco Bell Sauce Packet

District Taco Exterior

Where did the Little Caesars go?

District Taco began life as a simple taco truck roaming the streets of Arlington. They mainly cater to lunchtime business customers in high density commercial areas (Crystal City, Rosslyn, etc.) But this past fall they opened up a brick and mortar establishment on Lee Highway (near Joe’s Pizza and Pasta). I knew about the taco truck and how good it was, as well as the opening of the Lee Highway location, but like many things in life I just kept putting it off. I don’t know the reason for my aversion, I like tacos, I like federal districts, what’s the problem? Anyways I finally went to District Taco with LGF and Brewdib and immediately regretted not going sooner.  This place is awesome.

DT Interior
Where’s the HFCS?

The interior set up at District Taco is pretty standard for a casual dining/semi-fast food restaurant. One notable exception though is the Boylan’s fountain soda machine. Boylan’s is a New Jersey based soda company, that unlike the larger soda conglomerates still uses cane sugar as its primary sweetener rather than the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup. There’s also a rather awesome salsa and condiments bar.


Not my tacos, but I wish they were

I ordered two chicken tacos with black beans, jalapenos, and cheese. In the time it took me to find a seat and place my jacket and drink down the tacos were ready. I then went to the salsa bar, loaded them up with chopped onions and various salsas and was good to go. The quality of the chicken used was surprisingly good and you could really taste the fact that it was grilled (unlike Chipotle). I was also surprised at how much two tacos filled me up, but as you can see in the picture above you can stuff a lot into a taco. One of my friends got the habanero salsa (not available at the salsa bar, must be requested at the counter) and I poured a bunch on my second taco. This salsa is no joke, if you love spicy food I highly suggest it. (Note: Habanero salsa is excellent for giving to unsuspecting people that don’t like spicy things).

I highly suggest you go to District Taco and give them your business. Good food, good prices ($5 will get you two tacos and a water cup), and you’re supporting an independent establishment. The following day I went to Chipotle for lunch and honestly after District Taco I was disappointed by the subpar quality of the food and was wishing I had gone to District instead. Also District Taco will be doing sidewalk vending at Nationals games, as well as continuing to run the original taco truck.

Note: The images used in this review are not my own. Clicking on them will take you to the original source.

District Taco Website

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Cafe Tirolo – Arlington

11 03 2011

“And I don’t cook, either. Not as long as they still deliver pizza.” – Tiger Woods

Cafe Tirolo

Ballston's Greatest Secret?

One cold Thursday back in January we needed somewhere to eat dinner quick. Several usual suspects were named: Chipotle, Super Pollo, Italian Store, etc. Then a new challenger entered the melee, Cafe Tirolo. Apparently it had everything we could ever want (cheap pizza at a good price) so off we went. The reason I had never heard of Cafe Tirolo is that it is hidden, as in tucked behind the back of an apartment building across the street from Central Library hidden. You would never know this little place existed, and thankfully it does.

I was extremely famished that evening so I ordered a medium Pizza Bianca for $5.95 as soon as I saw it on the menu. The order system was standard for small pizza places; place your order and pay at the counter, sit down and your pie is brought to you. As soon as the pizza hit the table I sprinkled on some red pepper flakes and then did not stop eating until it was done. The medium was the perfect amount of a truly famished individual.

The pizza had a nice, thin dough and crust with an excellent consistency and chew to it. You could taste the olive oil used to make it, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly greasy. Tirolo’s had achieved that sometimes hard to reach middle point between dry and too greasy. The cheese and the garlic based white sauce worked together perfectly to just bring the pizza together. I’m a big fan of white pizza so I could not have been more satisfied. My friends had split a large and they too seemed to be enjoying it just as much as I was. They also ordered desserts, which looked great and according to them tasted amazing.

I highly recommend Cafe Tirolo to anyone that wants good cheap pizza without a huge wait or fancy atmosphere. The other items on their menu also looked extremely appetizing so it seems you can’t go wrong with whatever you order. Cafe Tirolo is the out of the way pizza place/deli that only you and your friends knew about in college and took full advantage of.

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(Note: The image used above is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the original source)

Caribbean Grill – Arlington

30 01 2011

“I now work for a finance company in Luxembourg with projects in South America and the Caribbean.”– Mathias Rust

Caribbean Grill Exterior

Plantain City, U.S.A.

I don’t know why it has taken us so long to write a review of the Caribbean Grill. We’ve eaten here before, some of us rather frequently (Heathcliff) due to proximity to our residence. The first thing we should have reviewed at Caribbean Grill probably should have been their rotisserie chicken (because there aren’t enough chicken places in Arlington). Their chicken is rather good but this isn’t a review of their chicken, it’s a review of their Cuban sandwich.

Cuban Sandwich
Fidel would be proud

The Cuban sandwich was somewhat of a let down. It looks fantastic and incredibly appetizing if you’re as hungry as I was, but it’s lacking in the flavor department. I was surprised how something that looked so good could be so bland. The bread they used was fantastic, perfectly toasted and crispy. The ham and pork that made up the sandwich was of fine quality as well. It just seemed as if it hadn’t been spiced at all. I also expected more robust flavor out of the mustard, which was also a let down. I even used the available yellow and green sauces on the table, but they appear to be watered down in comparison to their peers at El Pollo Rico or Crisp & Juicy. To sum up the Cuban: great sandwich in every aspect but flavor.

The fried plantains seemed to contain all the flavor that the Cuban Sandwich lacked. Perfectly fried and caramelized, these were the highlight of my meal. On a cold night, these plantains warmed me up and were a great compliment to the sandwich. They made a great “dessert”; sweet but not too sweet. The one thing I really wish I had was a bowl of vanilla ice cream to add them to. These are a must have at Caribbean Grill–just make sure you order the chicken as an entree.

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Note: The image of the exterior of the restaurant is not my own. Clicking on it will take you to the source.

Matsutake – Crystal City

12 11 2010

Matsutake (Japanese松茸, pine mushroom, Tricholoma matsutake = syn. T. nauseosum) is the common name for a highly sought aftermycorrhizal mushroom that grows in AsiaEurope, and North America. It is prized by Japanese for its distinct spicy-aromatic odor.” – Wikipedia

I go to Matsutake as frequently as the amount of mercury I consume from tuna based sushi allows. It’s my semi-monthly indulgence. I gorge on their sushi buffet, allow enough time for the mercury to leave my body, then repeat. Normally it’s the Ballston location that I frequent, but honestly the past few times I’ve been there have been less than stellar. They’ve been messing with the sushi buffet offerings, it’s more crowded than I desire, etc. On a whim the other day, we decided to go to the other Matsutake location in Crystal City.

The other Matsutake is like one one of those other flavors of Mountain Dew (Code Red, Baja Blast, etc.), familiar, yet intriguingly different. The selection of sushi they offered was better than the current offerings at the Ballston location in my opinion. The Crystal City location also seemed to be far less crowded than the Ballston location was at the time we arrived (noonish), which was a huge plus in my opinion. While it is further away than the Ballston restaurant, I’d rather take the extra time to ensure that there’s less hassle and a menu that is a bit more catered to my taste in sushi (i.e., not a lot of sushi with mayonaise like sauce on top of it).

Side Note: This review of Matusake Ballston was posted on TBD.com.

Super Pollo – Arlington

5 11 2010

“My chicken is good, but my neighbor’s looks better” – Romanian Proverb


Old Super Pollo

Rest in Peace OG Super Pollo


Super Pollo is one of the more notable Pollo a la Brasa joints in Arlington and was a fantastic option for lunch during high school. They sold their own location, which like much of Arlington is being converted into some ridiculous mixed-use high rise. Fortunately for the chicken-consuming public they moved down Wilson Boulevard and set up shop again. This is a review of their new location and perhaps our first Peruvian chicken review not about Pollo a la Brasa. Shocking, is it not?


New Super Pollo Location

New Hotness


One Sunday we were driving around to get lunch quickly before football started and we were in the mood for burritos, but just couldn’t go to Chipotle or California Tortilla for some reason. Then one of my friends remembered that Super Pollo had burritos so off we went. Two chicken burrito orders later and we were waiting in line for them, still waiting, still waiting, still waiting, and then we finally got them. I don’t know if they were training new employees or what the deal was but the wait for the burritos was at least twice as long as the wait for a standard chicken platter, so take that into consideration when ordering.



This is where I waited for an eternity for my burrito


The burritos at Super Pollo are fairly standard to what one expects in a burrito: meat, rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, etc. The quality of the chicken used here far surpasses that found at chain burrito places and is what sets Super Pollo apart. The beans they served in the burrito were pinto, which I enjoyed a bit more than I expected since I normally go the black bean route in burritos. This meal was all about doing something different, so it fell in line with the ethos of our outing. The side order of fries that came with my burrito were typical of those served at Pollo a la Brasa joints, so no complaints here. Take advantage of Super Pollo’s numerous options for sides, it’s truly what sets them apart from other Pollo a la Brasa places. The burrito was a nice change of pace and was exactly what I was searching for that Sunday afternoon. That being said nine times out of ten, I’d rather get the standard chicken platter here. It’s quicker, a better value, and the main reason to come here.

Side Note: The images used in this review are not my own, clicking on them will take you to the original site.

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