1.05.2008

Review #29: Ray's Drive In - Lufkin, Texas


On a rare visit to east Texas a while back, I found myself starving for that precious cuisine that inspired me to start this website.... the mom and pop burger. A colleague of mine knew that I was going to be in the vicinity of her hometown in Lufkin and strongly encouraged me to try out Ray's Drive In. I had also received eight emails from readers encouraging the same. When I drove by Ray's, I was immediately impressed by the drive in. You don't see many drive ins like this that don't have a Sonic sign out front. And Ray's was a busy drive in too... another good sign. Immediately upon walking inside Ray's I was greated with another good sign... lots of locals seated in very plain - non-flairy booths. It was late in the day and I was starving for a good greasy burger. Would Ray's deliver or fall flat? Would I be glad I ate here instead of grabbing a cardboard burger at Micky D's? There was only way to find out... order up!!

IMPORTANT: If you haven't already, please read the Texas Burger Guy terminology post. That will help you understand the terminology I use in this review.

Ray's Cheeseburger Review
Having reviewed 29 burger joints now and having eaten at way more than that... I'm discovering that another litmus test that can be applied to determine if a burger joint will be good or not is if they are utilizing a huge wall size Coke or Dr Pepper menu with the snap in letters/numbers. Seems like everytime a place is using one of those things their burgers turn out awesome. Ray's uses one of these style menus. After wading through the long list of items, I decided to stick with the cheeseburger for this review. As usual, I ordered the onion rings and fries to get a taste of both for the review.

After placing my order with the waitress and paying at the counter, I took my paper number and gazed around the dining area of Ray's to find a seat. As I settled into my yellow booth, I noticed several locals that walked in and ordered the usual. This sight only added to my anticipation of eating my very own Ray's Cheeseburger.

A few minutes later and the highly anticipated moment had finally arrived... they called my number. As I walked up to the counter to retrieve my little red plastic tray carrying the food I so longed for, I couldn't help but wonder if I had just met the burger that would dethrone the Boondock's monster as my number 1 burger of all time.

Here is how I see the Ray's Drive In Cheeseburger ranking in the TBG categories:

Oooze Factor
At first glance, I could tell the Ray's Cheeseburger would rank high in the Oooze Factor category. The white paper they had wrapped it with was turning transparent from all of the oooze seaping through the paper. Thinking it odd for me to tear into a wrapped burger, I controlled myself long enough to unwrap the burger and take a look at this beauty. Much to my pleasure, the burger was ooozier than I expected. My first bite confirmed what my eyes were telling me... this was one ooozy burger. Overall - a good healthy oooze factor score.
Oooze Factor Rating: 9



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Herd Killer
This burger wouldn't exactly strike fear in the heart of a cow. I have had plenty of average size burgers that were awesome. Ray's was good, but it wasn't the best one I had before. The seasoning on the burger was a little heavy with pepper for my taste. It may have just been an overzealous pepper shaker in the kitchen that did it, but pepper was a little too dominant a flavor for my taste. The mustard and vegetables on the burger definitely created a very good flavor. I just wish they had added a little more meat and had seasoned it differently.
Herd Killer Rating: 6


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Handling
While not huge, the Ray's burger is not to be eaten with just one hand. They put this burger in front of you with a good size bun as well. You can try one hand but you'd get it all over you... better to use at least one and a half hands.
Handling Rating: 7



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Bling Bling
I didn't feel ripped off at Ray's. I went in there with an appetite and left with a full belly for reasonable amount for fries, onion rings, drink and 1/2 pound burger. I was very sastisfied with the value.
Bling Bling Rating: 8





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Gravedigger
While I didn't make a call to my attorney to make sure my will was updated, I did feel like eating one of these burgers every week would chop a few months off my life. The oooze alone was enough to make me worry... but I'm not losing sleep.
Gravedigger Rating: 7 Shovels

Overall - I was happy with my visit at Ray's. The food was really good... the atmosphere was awesome and the side items were great. I probably enjoyed the atmosphere more than anything else. You really don't see the old fashioned drive ins being used very much. It was a pleasant departure from the usual format. My recommendation is if you are in Lufkin and looking for a good burger that will fill your belly and make you glad you stopped in... go to Ray's. You'll be glad you did.

Overall Ray's Cheeseburger Rating: 7

Restaurant Review
Not to focus on it too much, but the thing that makes Ray's unique is the atmosphere. When the waitresses are splitting duties between helping people inside the restaurant and the people parked in the stalls... well that's just cool. The huge menu that greats you is a welcome site. If I had the opportunity, I'd try some of the specialty burgers listed on the menu. There was a Ray's special which you know is good.

The other menu items I tried... the onion rings and the fries were both very good. The onion rings were the dry - fried variety versus the soft and greasy type. They were good but I prefer the soft and chewy ones. The fries were natural cut which was great. Good flavor on both items.

Restaurant/Atmosphere
Without question, the lasting memory I'll have of Ray's is the atmosphere... both inside and out. Inside you'll find lots of the classic style booths. In addition to the many booths, there are several tables. This place has to be a place that locals hang out in the morning to solve all the world's problems. It has a cozy feel to it. It was obvious that Ray's had been in this place for a long time and judging from the amount of business... it didn't look like they were going anywhere for a time to come.

The waitstaff was very helpful and polite. I think I freaked out one of the waitresses when I took my pictures for the review. Sorry!


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Directions
Ray's is located just off Highway 59... or North Timberland if you are a Lufkinite.

Address
420 N Timberland Dr
Lufkin, TX 75901
(936) 634-3262

Map
Ray's Drive In Map

TBG Overall Rating
Ray's provided a great dining experience. There are always things that I would change pretty much everywhere I go... Ray's is no exception. I'd move Ray's closer to Houston so I could eat there more. It's a good place with a long history. If you are ever in Lufkin - stop in and give Ray's a try.

Overall TBG Rating for Ray's Drive In: 7

28 Comments:

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

Glad to see you are still reviewing, TBG! I have to agree with the correlation of good burgers to stick-on letter menus. ;-)

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Food Czar said...

It's so great to have you back and blogging again, my friend. I know you sometimes get "overwhelmed with life" (who doesn't), but I enjoy your reviews so much. Mom and Pop places are the backbone of this great state and this great country, and thank you for doing your part to keep them alive!!!
(PS: You are right---great old-time diners are just too cool for school!!!)

 
At 2:26 PM, Anonymous johnnieblue@yahoo.com said...

Hi TBG.

Writing from Ireland. Never having been in the good ole US of A, I read your blog/review with great interest. We have nothing like these places here. Best we have is Mickey D's and the other King thingy.
Your descriptions and photos are a great source of amusement and have made me vow to try visit some of those places soon. By the way, I make my own awesome burgers at home. If you would like the recipe, I would be happy to post it for you sometime.

Cheers from cold, raining Ireland.

Dave.

 
At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Chuck said...

Glad to see your review of Ray's. I've been eating there for at least 20 years and I dont even live there!

 
At 2:12 AM, Anonymous Julie said...

good review! thumbs up!

 
At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally ate at Ray's aabout 2 weeks ago and will definitely be back. It is in my top 5 all time burgers.

You need to check out Dairy Palace in Canton and Joe's (near Fair Park) in Dallas.

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous michelle said...

I just came across your site today and I must say, how fantastic. your reviews are so fun (with categories like "herd killer" and "gravedigger") and the pictures look so good. i'm a fan even though (to be honest) i don't go for burgers that much.

maybe that will have to change? ;)

michelle
thelittledish.com

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Private Chef said...

Hi There

I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of "all the food blogs in the world" on www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

 
At 10:53 PM, Anonymous josh@texasisd.com said...

I have been eating at Ray's Drive In all of my life and while I think it is the second best burger in Lufkin I don't exactly understand why you didn't order and review the Ray's Special burger. The Ray's Special is the burger that gives Ray's Drive In its identity as one of the best burgers in Lufkin. If you go back, I suggest ammending your review to include this burger.

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger V said...

Hi TBG.
Being from Lufkin, TX it was great to see Ray's on your site. My friend actually sent me the link. When I was in high school and we had 'open campus' day, we ALWAYS went to Ray's Drive-In. I was actually friends with the owner's granddaughters while in high school. Anyway, I happen to like the extra pepper on the burgers. And I like the burgers are handmade and not in a circular form.
I agree with Josh, you really should have gotten the Ray's Special. That is the classic burger to get at Ray's. If you're ever back in Lufkin, try to get to Thompson's Pharmacy on Ellis Ave. It's a pharmacy with a diner inside. They have a really good burger there...at least they used to.

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You went to Ray's and didn't get the Ray's Special????

Mom's Diner in Lufkin has a top burger, too.

 
At 11:25 PM, Anonymous K-Rock said...

Good review of Ray's, but I'm with josh. You should have ordered the Ray's Special.

Also, next time you are in Lufkin you need to check out Mom's Diner on Frank St. Get the Mom's Monster II.

 
At 4:52 PM, Blogger randian said...

Any chance you'll get back to blogging?

 
At 4:25 AM, OpenID gammypie said...

I love your site! Do you have suggestions for a good burger in the Dallas area?

 
At 8:05 AM, Anonymous FastLane57 said...

I was born in Lufkin and Ray's has been there since 1956. ALL the food there is good. Try the steak finger basket! I now live in Tomball and go to Mel's which is the best mom and pop cafe ever. Have also been to Bellaire Broiler Burger and Bubbas. All are great.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger A Texas Traveler said...

I am afraid TBG might have succumb to a burger induced sleep... nothing in almost a year!

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger HoustonWok said...

Sometimes I have cravings for a nasty, greasy, juicy, onion infested burger and i am glad i found your site. Have you ever tried Shuttle Burger in Houston close to hobby airport?
Cheers,

 
At 3:23 AM, Blogger Aquaria said...

If you'd gone a little further up the road to Kilgore, you would have found another great mom-and-pop joint called Charburger. I haven't been there in years, but the chances are good that they are worth the trip. I used to drive from Tyler a few times a month to eat there.

 
At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow! i'm a grandaughter!! i wonder who V is? anywho, ray's has actually been there since 1959. my grandfather opened it! most of the family is still in the area. i grew up carhopping at the joint! i live out of town now but have to have a burger and onion rings every time i go home. my mouth is watering right now! thanks for the visit... and they are all correct in saying you need to try the ray's special... especially if you like grilled onions.

 
At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time, leave off the mustard and get mayo (aka "salad dressing") on your burger. That, combined with the tomatoes, really makes that extra-peppery seasoning sing!

 
At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't believe you didn't have a trout basket! Go back and eat one...now!

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger TonyM said...

Ray's burgers are good. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give them a 6. For the BEST burgers in Lufkin, try Mom's Diner on Frank St, just down from Memorial Hospital. Open Monday thru Friday until 8 pm. I rate Mom's burgers an 8. There may be better, but I have not had one in Lufkin for a comparable price (some of the Name Brand restaurants MAY have a better burger - but for 7 or 8 dollars).
om's are less than $4.

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is burger review - but for your readers who may be going to Ray's - check out the steak finger basket. I've been eating that for 20 years - THE BEST!

 
At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a native lufkinite...somewhat i moved there when i was four...but whenever im back home i make it a point to stop at rays...my suggestion is to get a large sweet tea easy ice...it is amazing...that was my hs tradition was to grab a large sweet tea easy ice before lufkin panther football games...i never brought it into the games but if the night was cool enough the tea still tasted as great at 1030 as it had at 6

 
At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try the Ray's Special for the best burger. Also Mom's is awesome as well, you have to rotate. been eating Ray's Steak finger ray's Special the 60's before that it was Read's Drive in down the road

 
At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rays makes a pretty good special burger. Double meat with cheese and lettuce and tomato and grilled onions. My wife and I split it with fries and onion rings. Plenty of food. And yes, I grew up in Lufkin, in Euless, Texas now teaching guys and gals how to work on Canon copiers. 21 years worth of that. Rays on Timberland seems to be the best. Got one on loop 287 also. Hope this satisfies some burger lovers.

Tim

 
At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food is amazing an that boy in the purple shirt that works at the desk is cute(:

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger xredeemed said...

I grew up in Lufkin. My husband and I spent many Friday and Saturday dates in high school at Ray's (1980's). The milkshakes are fabulous!!

Having said that, we now take Friday's off from work so we can get to Lufkin before Mom's Diner closes for the weekend. (We live in San Antonio now). Mom's definitely has THE BEST BURGER in Lufkin hands-down. Their onion rings are great too!

hope you can make it back that way soon to give Mom's a try.

 

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