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Seeking recommendations for best steakhouse in D.C.

Would welcome any suggestions for "non-chain" steakhouse(s) in D.C. Ambiance, price and location in city are unimportant. Quality of food is key. Thanks for any and all recommendations.

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  1. Gosh, it's been more eight hours since your post and nobody has mentioned Ray's The Steaks in Arlington yet? It's not even that early in the morning!

    Price is quite fair, ambiance is lousy, food is outstanding, wine list is functional, wait for a table is long. There are lots of reviews here, nearly all positive other than the usual cranks.

    10 Replies
      1. re: Hal Laurent

        Close enough- I mean it's spitting distance to DC.

        1. re: Hal Laurent

          I tend not to take a post completely literally unless there's enough detail so that there's no wiggle room. Since she said the location in the city was not important I didn't see anything that would preclude a nearby Arlington location that fit all the other requirements. (A Baltimoron should especially understand this <g>) If she was being given a free meal ticket with the provision that she spend the money in DC, I could understand a restriction (and she'd probably mention that).

          Besides, I wanted to recommend a place with which I was familiar. While I know all the big names, I don't have the big bucks so I've never been to Van's, Palmer's, or Capitol Grille, all of which have had their share of good and bad reviews. But Ray's seems to be nearly universally liked as a "chowhound" kind of place. I concur.

          1. re: MikeR

            Fair enough. How'd you know I was a Baltimoron? :-)

        2. re: MikeR

          You called? I've been to Ray's in SS. It was OK, nothing to write home about. I hear the one in Arlington is better.

          Personally, I prefer Mortons and Ruths Chris.

          Question for Jane Hyde - since quality of food is key, why do you categorically exclude chains? I think Ruths Chris and Mortons are better than Ray's.

          1. re: Gosh

            Serving a steak doused in butter is a sure fire way to make a steak taste good on the pure basis that if you serve anything in fat (which is in essence all butter is) then your taste buds are coated and the tasting of the ingredient is dulled. It's how Morton's and Ruth's Chris especially get away with subpar meats at such high prices.

            1. re: jpschust

              I personally can't stand the butter on Ruth Chris' steaks. The 2 times I've been there I've gotten the steak without the butter. I think it takes away from the flavor of the steak. As much as I love a good steak sauce...I kinda feel that a really great steak should require absolutly nothing on it...the beef should stand alone :)

            2. re: Gosh

              In response to the question as to why I asked for "non-chain" restaurants: Please don't misunderstand me. I can (and do) eat at Mortons and Ruth's Chris here in CT. When I travel, I like to take the opportunity to find the undiscovered gem that I can't find in my backyard. For what it is worth, we dined at Mortons last Thursday and at Ray's the Classics on Friday. Mortons was, in our opinion, excellent (as always), but we felt Ray's delivered better value. Ray's bread, salads, steaks and desserts were (we felt) superior to Mortons. Sides were tastier at Mortons and steaks were just about as good, but overall, Ray's was better (and literally half the price).

              1. re: Jane Hyde

                There are a lot of "experts" on line, and not all of them read between the lines. I understand your reason behind specifying restaurants that aren't part of national chains, but many people will simply read your post as "Where can I get a good steak in Washington?" assuming that you're from a small town in the South where the best steak in town is pounded, breaded, and fried at Aunt Sadie's Nook, and the nearest Ruth Chris is 90 miles away.

                To make your request better focused (and still some people won't read it all) you could say "We're from Boston and we have Ruth Chris, Morton's, etc. so I want to eat at a place that isn't just another copy of where I can reliably eat a steak at home."

                Ray's is clearly the answer around here, and most of the regulars here would fire it off as a suggestion it given the simple trigger of "steak." But for something a bit out of the ordinary when it comes to beef rather than a specific style of beef, we have Argentine steak houses and restaurants, and a couple of Asian places that serve steak in unusual ways. You don't get that everywhere.

          2. Depends on what you mean by "best." Best value is Ray's the Steaks; great food, no ambiance, very good prices. If you like the traditional kind of steak house, try Prime RIb or Charlie Palmers. Avoid BLT Steak.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Dakota Guy

              Forgot Bobby Van's, which I think is pretty excellent too. That said I agree with all of your comments above, especially avoid the poorly named BLT Steak with matching poor food and service.

              1. re: jpschust

                I'm going to have to disagree on Bobby Van's. Their service is great, but they burn their steaks. Been twice for steak, both times, my medium rare steak has come out looking as if someone dropped it into a campfire. Outside was completely charred black- not a nice sear, but carbonized. I do like their lunch menu though. In DC, I think Capital Grille is the most consistent with their steak.

                1. re: dwbengals

                  I just went to Bobby Van's on April 11 and agree with the preceding comment. Quite disappointed with the ribeye, which was chewier than it should have been, too heavily charred on the outside, and lacked any depth of flavor. Four of us dined for . . . $400, which seemed like a lot. My dinner companions were reasonably satisfied, but were not impressed.

                  I have been to Ray's the Steaks several times over the past 4-5 years, and it has always been good, and far better than Bobby Van's. It's a quirky place, but that's part of its charm.

              2. re: Dakota Guy

                I really like Charlie Palmer's and am always happy with their steaks and sliders.

              3. The only "non-chain" steakhouse that comes to mind is Ray's, which is not in DC. My favorite steakhouse IN DC is probably Capital Grille. If you want something a little out of the ordinary, try Fogo de Chao, which is a Brazilian-style churrascarria and has very good meat.

                1. If it is all about the meat, then Ray's the Steaks is your answer, imho.

                  On a side note, the $20.07 fixed price lunch at Charlie Palmer is really an exceptional value.

                  1. DC has a branch of every chain steak house there is. Did somebody skip us?
                    There are a couple of places where you can get a tasty steak that have a little local flavor if you want to try them.
                    The Monocle on Capital Hill has good steaks (and burgers) and stiff drinks with a dose of the one thing that sets us apart from other cities - politics. It's on the Senate side of Capital Hill and is a hangout for Senators, high ranking staff and lobbyists. Many of them pass through the clubby bar on their way to private dining rooms but they often linger.
                    Montmartre (Eastern Market) and Montsouris (Dupont Circle) have great hanger steak with pommes frites in very pleasant surroundings.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Capital Grille would get my vote.

                      I've been a big booster of the Monocle as well, but on my last visit they seemed to be just going through the motions. I hope that was just an off-night.

                      1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                        Toss up between Capital Grill and Charlie Palmer.

                        Agree that Monocle has been somewhat on-again, off-again, lately. I think their real stock in trade is private parties.
                        I'm surprised that there hasn't been more publicity about the effect of the new House ethics rules on the restaurants, caterers in town. No more entertaining of Members or staff. That has got to have hurt the bottom line. It's really affected charity events.

                    2. Arlington is fine. Ray's sounds like it is worth a try. Suggestions for good Italian are also welcome. We have three nights to fill. Thanks to all for the useful input.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Jane Hyde

                        Jane, Ray's is about 5 minutes from D.C. but difficult to get a table - call now. Capitol Grille is a chain, Bobby Van's is a chain, Sam & Harry's is horrible. The Prime Rib has excellent food-you can't get a bad meal there, but is really more about the "special occasion" atmosphere. Per your reqs, Ray's sounds like the one (just my 2 cents!)

                        1. re: OneMoreBite

                          There is no reservation system for Ray's- you have to either show up early to put your name on a list.

                          Italian- Get ye to Dino in Cleveland Park.

                          1. re: jpschust

                            Ray's in Arlington may not take reservations, but Ray's in Silver Spring (2 blocks from the Metro) does.

                            Same great steaks plus lots more, and much more upscale atmosphere.

                        2. re: Jane Hyde

                          For good upscale Italian, I recommend Tosca or Obelisk. For more casual, but very good, Italian, I highly recommend A La Lucia in Old Town Alexandria. Someone will recommend Dino for casual Italian, although I personally don't think it is worth the drive from Virginia or the parking problems in that area.

                          1. re: Dakota Guy

                            Definitely second Tosca. Best in town.
                            Roberto Donna's Bebo in VA was getting iffy reviews on sevice for awhile but they seem to have ironed out the problems. He had starred for years at the highly rated Galileo downtown. May be worth a try.
                            The other longtime favorite in town is the funky AV Ristorante near the Convention Center. Old style red gravy place frequented by celebrities and regular folks. Due to fall to the wrecking ball soon and an institution will be gone forever.

                        3. Capital Grille. Love the sides, porter house is my fav. I love the seafood tower thing.

                          1. There's a bunch of DC steak threads, as well as a Sietsiema article on the subject. What it boils down to is that no single steakhouse in DC does great steak/sides/service/ambience. You might get three of those but never all.

                            That said, I'd go with Rays. Not fond of the aircraft hangar atmosphere, but the meat/price/value quotient is on the money.

                            1. I had a wonderful experience when I went to The Prime Rib for the first time. It's such a classic DC spot and remains one of the only spots that requires a jacket...which is kind of fun. Our server was fantastic...very witty...wish I could remember his name. The steak was suberb and the sides even better.

                              They have a lunch special (I think they still have it) that is something like 3 courses for $30...quite a steal if you ask me. Even their non-steak items...like their chicken picatta was tasty

                              1. Sounds like Ray's is a must. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'll be sure to report back.

                                1. I was reading the Washingtonian the other day and their highest rated steak place is Charlie Palmer Steak. The full menu is on the website. It looks great I cannot wait to try it. I have been both to The Caucus room and to BLT Steak. I was unimpressed with both. The Caucus room is part of a local DC chain and the food was over priced for what I got. As far as the way too trendy BLT, the steak was good, but it seemed that they didn't pay attention to anything else they served. Service was average, but the atmosphere was awful. Very much a scene. Report on Ray's or wherever you end up.

                                  1. I'm not sure why you'd choose to exclude the "chains" ... since both The Palm and Smith & Wollenski offer far superior beef than any of the independents I've tried. Much better than Prime Rib, in my view. (Which, in fact, may be a mini-chain itself, because it has a sister restaurant in Baltimore.) Haven't tried Ray's yet, but if they serve a better piece of meat than S&W or Palm, I'll eat my hat for dessert.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: richarm1

                                      Get out the salt. IMO, the quality of Ray's steaks is equal to, or frequently better than, the major steakhouse chains in the area. At a substantially lower price point.

                                      1. re: richarm1

                                        My reason for excluding the chain restaurants is primarily because I live outside of NYC and can go the major chains anytime. I agree with you that some are excellent. However, when visiting another city, I prefer to try a new experience, and often find I get a better feel for the city, people, culture, etc., when I do so. And I like supporting independent restaurants, as well.

                                      2. Thanks to all who suggested Ray's. Absolutely wonderful dinner. Foccacia, salads, steaks, desserts - - all truly outstanding. Side dishes (potatoes, spinach, onions) were good, not great; but the rest of the meal was delicious, and an unbeatable value. I've spent twice as much at Mortons for less.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Jane Hyde

                                          Thanks for the feedback Jane. It narrows down the steak houses I would like to try. I am from NYC and I will be visiting DC/VA/MD a lot this year, almost every other wkend since my SO is on rotation there for 3 - 6 months for work. I'm trying to map out all the places/restaurants I would like to visit and try. We might even move there if things turn out well.

                                          1. re: itstangy

                                            Have now tried both Ray's. My fellow Chowhounds were right on target - - the Ray's in VA has zero ambience, but terrific steak. A great value. I preferred Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring, but only because the setting was nicer and the menu was more extensive. The quality of the beef was outstanding in both locations. Also went to Mortons while in DC (have been to pretty much all the chains: Ruth's Chris, Smith & Wollensky, etc.). I would put Ray's right up there with the best of the best, and when you consider that it is about half the price, I think that is an amazing value.

                                            1. re: Jane Hyde

                                              Next time you come in to town you might want to try something like Prime Rib (talked about above) for something totally different and very old school DC. It's open for both lunch and dinner. And sometime they have a great (read: totally cheap!) lunch special with the Prime Rib. I don't usually order prime rib but my boyfriend talked me into ordering it and it was fantastic. Full of flavor and perfectly cooked. The sides there (in my mind almost as important as the steak itself) were so good. We got the creamed spinach, the mashed potatoes, corn and I like 1 or 2 others (our hilarious and fun waiter brought us out some extras for free because he wanted me to get the full experience).

                                              I have yet to try Ray's since I don't make it out to the burbs that often but I've been hearing such great things that I might need to make a special trip soon.

                                              1. re: Elyssa

                                                Thanks for the tip. I'll put Prime Rib on the list!