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« Dino Special | Main | Food and Wine Events »

Wed, Mar 08 2006 at 03:00 PM

Ray's The Steaks

Posted by Jason, Mar 08, 2006

UPDATE April 1 2006:

Rays is back open after a weeks hiatus. See here for more info or continue reading this post.

I only started going to Ray's the Steaks recently -- maybe it's because of the whole Virginia/crossing-the-river factor or because of all the attention that Ray's has been getting lately. I guess I just figured it was about time I tried it. So far, each dinner at Ray's the Steaks was been wonderful! I definitely ate some of the best steaks I've ever had in this area, and they were far better than Morton's or Ruth Chris. So what made my meals so good you ask? Well, let me explain.

I like to think of Ray's The Steaks as the anti-Morton's. It's unpretentious and unassuming. The dining room reminds me of the Ye Olde College Diner at Penn State, and is anything but swanky. You won't find big-wig execs with their own wine locker taking up space in the dining room with their expense accounts. What you will find is fresh, unadulterated beef and people who appreciate it...and a lack of expensive a la carte sides.

Our first night there, I had the NY Strip with silky mushroom cream sauce and blue cheese crumbles. I have to say though, of all the steaks I tried at Rays, this was my least favorite. Not that it was bad by any means, it just wasn't as flavorful or tender as the steaks I tried in my later visits.

Also that first night, Amy ordered a buttery tenderloin with mushroom brandy cream sauce, which melted in my mouth with every bite that she allowed me have.  If I were to describe any or Ray's steaks as "sexy", it would be this one. I preferred how Amy ordered her filet with just the mushroom sauce (and minus the blue cheese), mainly because I think that the blue cheese masked the flavor of the beef too much.

Before our steaks came though, I had to try a cup of the simply-prepared crab bisque. When it first came, it looked like just a normal cup of soup, but once I put my spoon into the creamy pink broth, I realized that this was no normal crab bisque. The broth was full of jumbo lump crab meat, and when I mean full, I mean "Would you like some bisque with your crab?" Excellent.

Another night, I started with the clam chowder, which was different than I'm used to, because it had corn and carrots in it. The broth was not quite as thick as most chowders, but that probably just means that it wasn't made with heavy cream and a ton of flour. I prefer the crab bisque.

But back to the meat. I have to say I enjoyed the hanger steak the most. Honestly, you won't find a better steak for $20. Please go and order this medium rare with nothing on it. You won't regret it.

And if you think that's a good deal...one night, we ordered the bacon-wrapped fillets, which ended up only costing us $16. Add to that the fact that you get creamed spinach and mashed potatoes included on the side, and you have yourself quite a good deal.

Here's just a little tip for those of you that have never been to Ray's. I'd recommend that you order your steak a little more done than you usually like it. Most places, I order my steaks medium-rare, mainly to keep the cook from overcooking it. At Ray's it's more likely that your steak will be undercooked. That was just my experience the few times I was there and from talking to others, they notice that as well.

Never once at Ray's did I feel rushed or like I had to leave. This is mainly because the kitchen is ultra efficient. Minutes after we ordered, our appetizers were delivered. Not ten minutes after we were done with our appetizers, our steaks came out like clockwork. The first time we ate at Ray's the Steaks, I didn't realize until I got back in the car that we were in and out in forty-five minutes. Another time, Amy and I lingered over glasses of wine and the complimentary hot chocolate included at the end of your meal.

I'm sorry to have to say though, at the time I'm writing this, I've read that Ray's in Arlington will be closing March 26th until further notice. I don't know if this is because of the upcoming opening of a new location in Silver Spring, or if it's because Michael Landrum, the ecclesiastic of unadulterated, unpretentious food, is done with his Arlington location and moving on to bigger and better things. I hope it's not the latter.

Of course it might be due to the fact that recently the reservation policies of Ray's the Steaks have come under fire (okay, maybe I'm dramatizing that a bit.) Complaints about time limits for seatings before 7 p.m. (90 minutes), and the requirement that you call the day of the reservation by 1 p.m. to confirm have some people bitching about how arduous these policies are. (Yeah, I'm sick of this topic too but I've got to mention it otherwise the comments will be dominated by this.)

But despite these policies, the restaurant is still booked weeks in advance. Don't like it you say? Then don't go! It just makes it easier for me to get a reservation. Yeah, so the chef/owner Michael Landrum's a bit uptight about the seating at his restaurant, so what? Trust me. Things could be worse.

These policies give Michael a better turnout for reservations, but they also guarantee that 1) you won't have to wait for your table when you arrive and 2) your check will be $10 cheaper at the end of the night. Amy and I were able to dine at Ray's for about $90 each time. With wine and appetizers that's pretty damn good. Glasses of wine are cheap considering how generous the pours are, at about $7 each, and the steak prices range from $15 to $35 depending on the cut or size of the steak.

This topic also came up in Tom Sietsema's chat today, and supposedly, Michael Landrum told Tom "I'm closing because I have to find a way to bring the restaurant back to the neighborhood, where it belongs, even if it involves reformatting my operations." I'd speculate that Michael Landrum will be changing his reservation system and possibly more, but I'll update this post when I have more specific information.

So in the mean time, go to Ray's while you still can and hope that it reopens soon after it closes.

Ray's the Steaks
1725 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
Map
(703) 841-7297

Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday: 6PM to 10 PM

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: There is a parking lot but it can get crowded.
Smoking:
Not Allowed.
Closest Metro:
Rosslyn or Courthouse
Reservations: Not taken. First come, first serve.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 4 out of 4 diapers. Laid back and casual environment. There are less tables now, and there is plenty of room for that child seat.

Categories: Arlington, Foodie Experiences, Restaurant Reviews, Steakhouses
Link To This Post

DCDiner

I love Ray's and hope that they do reopen. I don't really care much about the reservation policies as long as I get good service and food.

Barbara (Biscuit Girl)

I've heard that he's closing the Arlington place for about a week to get the new place in Silver Spring open.

Hubby agrees with you on the hanget steak. That's his favorite. On a couple of visits, he'd get a steak and I'd get the scallops then we'd share. Our version of surf-n-turf. And damn good.

Tiff

One of my coworkers is married to the guy hired to manage the Silver Spring location (His name is Andy, previously of Nora's, and he's been at Arlington lately pitching in as well). The closure of Arlington is indeed to enable the staff to concentrate on opening Silver Spring, and then Arlington will return. And mmm, steak. I never minded the reservation policies- it was a little bit of a hassle, but certainly not disproportionate to the quality of the experience. And like you said, I can always go elsewhere for convenience if that's what's important to me. I always thought the difficulty of getting the reservation was part of the charm. :)

Spencer

Do you know where the location in Silver Spring will be?

Jon

The sticky buns at Ye Old College Diner at PSU are out of this world.

Jason

LET'S GO STATE!!!

dean

It is on colesville Road, just north of Georgia, in the Lee building. It is baically across Colesville from the AFI.

Judith Weintraub

What date does the Silver Spring Restaurant open?

Judith Weintraub

What date does the Silver Spring Restaurant open?

Blake

WOW. Finally made it to Ray's this weekend. Fantastic. That 20 dollar deal for hanger and soup is one of the best I have seen. I think all the talk over his reservation policies is kind of ridiculous. There are so many restaurants not taking them these days. Plus we had some nice margaritas at the little mexican joint next door. It seemed they were training a few servers. They might be training staff in preparation for the new locations opening...

Judith Weintraub

I still haven't found out when the Silver Spring Restaurant is to open.

Kirsten

The Arlington restaurant does indeed appear to be reopened, as I went there a few weeks ago. Ditto on the hanger (or "onglet") steak. Damn fine piece of meat. So flavorful and bursting with juice. And the creamed spinach is out of this world. My only complaint is that we felt a bit rushed (and this *after* the introduction of the no reservations policy). I definitely felt like there was a push to turn tables. This is America after all, not France. I guess any place as hot as Ray's is now is going to be trying to get all those customers lined up out front in the doors...and back out again quick.

Jonny

Let me preface this by saying that I grew up in Indiana. I know good meat. Good meat is not easy to come by outside of the midwest- it's hard in NY, its even worse on the West Coast, and the hardest is in DC. Ray's is one of the top steaks I've had, anywhere. The service is prompt, friendly, and wonderful. Each piece of a meal there is amazing and well thought out. A+ to Ray's.

john

Im now confused...All this griping re: reservations.....By posters' and also the writer....Then in the details about the restaurant, it states that no reservations are taken,and it is first come first serve....NICE....Maybe I can get a table at Mortons.....

john

Im now confused...All this griping re: reservations.....By posters' and also the writer....Then in the details about the restaurant, it states that no reservations are taken,and it is first come first serve....NICE....Maybe I can get a table at Mortons.....

Jason

I think you should try reading a little more carefully.

Jason

What is the writer thinking? NY Strip is about the toughest steak you can order. Of course crumbled bleu cheese will over power the meat flavor. This guy had best stick to fusion joints and leave the steak to someone that knows it!

Kim

Go State! Unfortunately, the Diner was way cheaper and cooler before they "refurbished" (read: increased prices and decreased menu). I remember when you could get a giant black bean hummus sandwich and fries for like $3...ah, just what starving students needed...

Ahem, anyway, Ray's is FANTASTIC, I agree!

noyb

must agree that the food is great. however, the asinine no-reservation policy has GOT to go! having been an inveterate diner for over 35 years (everything from greasy spoons to 5-Star salons!)this is THE worst policy I have ever run into. even after our hosts made several advance trips and phone calls to make sure our party of family and seniors would be acomodated, all we got were lame excuses and a longer wait -- while our table sat empty! heck, they even made a 90-year old lady wait out in the rain until we kvetched enough to be seated. everyone else waiting outside the tiny Arlington venue was PO'd about this "reservations" policy. but, folks here in DC are too much into punishment and put up with this rude treatment of customers to dine at a trendy place. also bad is their mandatory cooking policies on some meat cuts. while I'm OK with Rare or Med Rare, some want it more well-done for medical reasons or personal preference. pretty nervy for a place to tell YOU how THEY will cook your steak when YOU are paying for the food. since it was not my personal choice, and we were hosted by others, I would NOT return here regardless of how good the food was. they must have learned surly manners from the A.V. Ristorante downtown!

Jason

Wait, I don't get it. How is the policy any different or worse than a place where tables are first come, first serve? At least at Ray's you have the option of showing up at 4:30 to reserve a table for the evening, rewarding the people who really want to eat there...The best advice I can give people about Ray's is not to go on the weekends. It's not nearly as crowded and the seating "issues" that noyb mentioned above don't happen.

BT

The "reservation" policy is annoying and it is not helped by the hostess/host that doesn't seem to have the ability to think ahead or multi-task. However, I do have to disagree with Kim on the steak cooking policy. Part of eating a good rest., is allowing the chef to prepare the food the way it should be prepared. If you like your steak cooked med. well to well done then you really don't like steak. If you need your steak cooked that much for medical reasons then please don't order steak in a restaurant like Ray's. That is a complete waste of a perfectly good peice of meat. Chefs take pride in their food and know how it should be prepared. Thomas Keller's philosophy on food, especially meat, is that as a chef you have taken the life of an animal in order to prepare a meal for someone. In order to not waste that life, the chef needs to show respect by properly preparing the meal. If you are sloppy with it then you have just wasted that life and disrespected it. Part of eating at better restaurants is to experience how different food either should be enjoyed or can be enjoyed. Good steaks should not be cooked past med. rare. If someone wants or needs their steak cooked more than they can cook it that way at home or go to a place that serves cheaper cuts of meat. I like their policy and wish more restaurants had policies like that. Remember, at better restaurants, you expect the food to be prepared and served properly.

Kim

Hey BT, I think you mean you disagree with noyb about the steak-cooking policy. I am a "rare" girl myself (and I didn't mention cooking in my post), and completely agree with the policy (afterall, why get a steak if you can't savor the rich softness of undercooked meat ^_^)? And there really isn't any health risk to getting a rare steak -- only a rare burger (the interior of a steak is pristine and thus doesn't need to reach the same temp as the exterior, whereas the interior of a burger is a mish-mash of what was once exterior, requiring the center to be well-cooked).

Also, can't say the reservation policy bothers me. I live a few blocks away, so I can always get a table at some point! Plus, it's great that they aren't booked up for weeks.

BT

You're right Kim. I meant to noyb not you. Sorry for the confusion.

Mike

Ate at Ray's last night and loved it. Wonderful food, great service. I will be back.

Ron

Top marks
Celebrated wife's birthday here 9/26. We started with a most acceptable shrimp diablo. Hanger and ribeye were perfect, even the bit we couldn't finish and carried home. The potato and spinach sides went well as did the mushroom sauce (well presented under the steak rather than on top). A recommended Aussie merlot matched perfectly. Strawberries with cream and key lime pie (comped for the birthday girl) were a perfect finish. Service was first-rate all round. At 6:30 on a Wednesday we were asked to wait 25 minutes with a glass of wine on an outside slider bench and were seated in 15. OK, the place is not fancy, but it's clean and not overly crowded or noisy. Not inexpensive, but good value for the money. We will surely return.

Visions

Love the comments about Thomas Keller...we take food daily out of the world for someones meal. Let the Chef give you their best, and you are welcome to comment of course, just COMMUNICATE! Enjoy the independants!!

max

Yes, the food rocks! But, we felt that we were racing against the clock. I know that they are running a business and are trying to serve as many people as possible but don't rush people out! I come from a culture where dinning is an event...family time. We like to order appetizers with wine first than order our meal with a different type of wine...then finish off with an espresso and an after dinner drink. I guarantee you that our total bill will compensate that extra 30 min it will take us to enjoy the EXPERIENCE. Am I asking too much?

Mike Bober

Agree totally, Max. Restaurants that put turnover ahead of customer experience are one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to eating out.

I haven't had that experience at Ray's, thankfully, but it always annoys me when I do.

AP

I have been going to Ray's for years and have never felt rushed. I also have never had a better steak than at Ray's. None of the other steak houses can match Ray's on quality or price. And, frankly, I prefer the casual dining of Ray's to lots of stuff wood paneling. I am nervous about the planned moved to a new space a few blocks up the street. Let's hope that remains on hold for a while.

SB

I just went to Rays recently, and was nervous about being rushed out since I had a 7:30 pm seating. Turns out, as we ordered desserts, our waitress kindly mentioned that she had a party of 14 (not sure how they reserved that!!) and our table was needed. While I was bothered that we were asked to finish up, the waitress did comp our desserts as a thank you, so I guess I can't complain. Oh, and the steaks were as succulent as always :) I would suggest trying to get a late seating time if you don't want to be turned over.

Mark S.

Ray’s has good steaks at reasonable prices (try the crab bisque if you decide to go), but the dining experience was very unpleasant and made me wish I went elsewhere.

Parking, ambiance, and décor are all non-existent, and although your food will come out very quickly (really, you’ll be surprised), you are expected (and reminded) to eat quickly and make room for waiting patrons. Be prepared to fight through crowds waiting at the door and endure shockingly rude service from the condescending hostesses. Arrive hours early to request a specific dining time (even though Ray’s “doesn’t take reservations”) or be prepared to wait 2 hours (3 to 4 hours on Friday or Saturday) before getting a table.

Emily

I absolutely love Ray's! The food is fabulous and the chef does a wonderful job ensuring your palate is satisfied! So simple, if you have an issue waiting, go early! If you don't then go late and go next door to the mexican joint and have beer and chips! That's what we did my first time there. I won't eat a steak at any other restaurant in town!

GO RAY'S!!!!

Cathy

Love it!! We're going tonight and have been going for years. A wonderful alternative to the 'chaincakefactories' on the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor. They brought my son strawberries and cream for being able to finish a T-bone on his 12th birthday. Have never felt rushed. There is no 10 min wait for a drink order, and a 20 min wait doesn't mean 40 like most places. And to have a medium rare steak for which I only need a fork.....is heaven.

Rob H

Looks like the Rays The Steaks franchise is expanding. Does anyone know what they are opening in courthouse ?

It will be around the corner from the five guys. It looks nice and looks bigger that Rays the Steaks. There is a sign on the door that says they are hiring inquire at Rays the Steaks.

Jason

Supposedly Ray's the Steaks is moving to that new location and the existing Ray's the Steaks location is turning into a seafood place called Ray's the Net. But as far as I know, Mr. Landrum has not committed to anything for sure yet.

Ashley

Our entire dining experience was beyond atrocious, but here is the highlight. After waiting for over an hour for my steak to come out correctly I just wound up splitting my friend's meal that I was dining with. When our waiter brought our bill I asked him to wrap up my steak (and a side we never received) so I could take it home since I didn't get a chance to eat either. We paid our bill and were waiting for my food to come back when the woman who had been running our food asked us to leave. She said that it was busy and they needed the table. We weren’t shocked by the policy at all (it is written on their menu) but since I hadn’t received my steak yet I just said, “Oh, I’m just waiting on my steak I had wrapped up.” So she went off to check with our waiter and when she came back she said, “I’m sorry but no steak was sent back to be wrapped up.” I discussed this point with her for about 5 minutes and then I asked for the manager. She replied that she was the manager and no steak was sent back to be wrapped up, and she really needed the table. Basically the service was terrible all night and I wound up paying for an entire steak and side that I never received, and the manager did not care at all. The food is good, but not nearly good enough to put up with that kind of service.

Susan Reindl

Can anyone tell me how, or if it is possible to get a gift certificate for Rays? I live in Wisconsin, but my brother & his wife live in Gaithersburg, MD. They love eating at this restaurant (not the Silver Springs location. I would really love to surprise them with a gift card or gift certificate from Rays the Steaks.

Jason

I'm sure if you ask them at the restaurant that they can work something out with you.

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