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Ray's The Steaks

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Do you think Ray's The Steaks could quite possibly have the best steaks in Virginia/Maryland?

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  1. The short answer is yes.

    I don't really like the stiff, overpriced, a la carte chains -- Morton's, The Palm, Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris....I only go there when someone with an expense account feels like going there, and usually not for the food. If I want a good steak, I go to Ray's the Steaks. Period.

    1. Yes. But it fills a very different niche from most other steak houses that serve quality meat. I wouldn't try to close a business deal at Ray's, nor would I take someone there on a romantic early date. It's just too noisy and too packed for that.

      When your priority is on the quality of the food and you're willing to take noise, no reservations, and a more limited wine list and menu, head to Ray's.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PollyG

        Right. And when I want mediocre Italian food, don't want to make a reservation, don't care about the atmosphere, want a subpar wine list I will consider going to the Olive Garden. Ray's is the steak equivalent.

      2. Speaking of Ray's, any news on the new place he was planning to open in Clarendon? I thought he used to have a web page, but I can't find it. Don't know a better place to get news and rumors about a new branch of a Chowhound restaurant than here.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MikeR

          Actually, there is a better place to get news on this particular topic: http://www.donrockwell.com , a DC-area food forum where Michael Landrum (owner of Ray's) often posts (or at least he was as recently as a few months ago, whenever the last time I read it). You might ask there and get an answer directly from him.

        2. Best not just in VA/MD but probably in the top 10 nationally. And it isn't just the steak. Everything is terrific. In all our visits, we've had only one dish that was less than perfect. One time - just once - the crab bisque was short on the crab. That we even noticed it tells you something about the quality of the food overall. Even the slightest slip is remarkable because it is so rare.

          I don't think there ever was a website. That would be so "not-Landrum." He says he always wanted to run a small neighborhood place - kind of a funny idea in the middle of a huge metropolis, and especially in the "neighborhood" he chose. The little strip shopping center was once a part of a neighborhood. Now it is a relict of a time gone by, swamped by huge apartment complexes, medium-rise condos, and wall-to-wall people. But anyway, the idea was apparently to have the kind of drop-in, down-on-the-corner, locals-hangout kind of joint that wouldn't need a website.

          Classics, in Silver Spring, is a bit different in character - not hugely so - the emphasis is still on the phenomenal food and not on the frills.

          As for the new place in Clarendon, well, while some of the county regulations and procedures supposedly slowed the prep and opening of the Classics, word has it that Sr. Miguel is pretty fussy and it took a while to get things just so. But even if that isn't true, consider the hassle of trying to run one restaurant while opening another. Now consider the hassle of trying to run TWO restaurants while opening another. Contrary to popular myth, the man is only human. And I for once will miss the old joint.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Just Visiting

            I just heard today that Clarendon is now Court House area for the new place.

            I kind of miss the good food, but I just don't have the patience and drive to deal with getting a table. In the early days, I could show up at 8:30 and get seated right away. Once they told me it would be 45 minutes to an hour, that was it for me. I'm not being spiteful here, I'm mostly alone when I eat out and waits longer than about 15 minutes just don't work for me. I don't expect that this will change when the new place is open. I guess it goes with being very popular for good reasons.

            1. re: MikeR

              The new location was always going to be Court House, not Clarendon. It's on the ground floor of the Navy League building at 2300 Wilson.

              Much bigger space than the current RTS, which should help some with the waits for tables. And ML has said that he still plans on keeping the original RTS location open, at least for a while, after the new location opens.

            2. re: Just Visiting

              Oh please! Keep the St. Michael hyperbole confined to the altar to him found on other boards. A reasonalbe decorum of objectivity would be more appreciated here.

              1. re: Pappy

                OK, name a better place that is at a comprable price in the DC area? Forget that, just name a better steak of USDA Prime in the DC area.

                1. re: jpschust

                  I like the steaks at Victor's Grill in Falls Church. Bolivian dive. $17 will get you dinner sized for two. Phenomenal.

                  I've only been to Ray's The Seaks once, with my wife. Two steaks, both only ok. More charred than flavorful. I prefer cooking my own.

                  Been to Ray's the Classics once and had a great meal of crab bisque and a vegetarian 'hamburger' that was over-the-top delicious.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Yes, they are known for heavy char, but they are also known for doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy. You can ask for no char, light char, medium char...I'm actually not sure it is possible to do no char, but you get my point. Ask - and at RTS and RTS - ye shall receive.

                    As for the St. Michael thing, name another restaurant owner who regularly - like every week - holds a dinner to benefit a local charity. As he did with the soft opening of RTC. There are three (?) set menus at different prices and he selects a different charity each week. There's even a different name for the restaurant on Sunday nights - A Place At the Table. Here - read it for yourself:

                    http://www.weta.org/dcdining/

                  2. re: jpschust

                    Charlie Palmer's, for starters. After that, I'll take Flemings and then Black's rib eye.

                    That being said, ordering steak out at a restaurant is like ordering pasta... why bother, when you can usually do it better and for a fifth of the price at home?!?

                    1. re: food dude

                      How do you manage to do a better job with steaks at home? (I won't argue with the cost saving) Two things that restaurants can do that most home cooks can't are:

                      1. Get high quality meat (including aging that they may do in house)
                      2. Use a higher temperature for cooking than most home appliances can provide

                      Those aren't secrets or impossible, but if you want to get the same piece of meat to cook at home that you'd get in a high quality steak house, you couldn't just go to the Safeway and plop it on the grill.

                      I'm not all that enthralled with a great steak (nor is my circulatory system) so the two or three times a year that I feel like a steak, I usually do cook one at home. About the fanciest restaurant that I go to for steak is J. Gilbert's, which, although I've never been to Charlie Palmer's, Capitol Grille, Flemings, etc., I suspect that those are a cut above Gilbert's, but I don't feel like I'm missing anything I shouldn't miss. I'm more of a "practical steak guy" than a "steak gourmet" so there may be something flawed with my logic, but I think I understand the basics.

                      1. re: MikeR

                        Discussion of cooking steaks at home should take place on the "Home Cooking" board. Please keep this discussion centered on Ray's or restaurant alternatives.

                      2. re: food dude

                        I think Ray's is much better than Charlie Palmer IMHO. And I think it is much better than what most people can make at home. But that is just me. And I am a good cook and a steak fiend.

                    2. re: Pappy

                      Completely agree. I believe objectiveity on RTS has been long gone. This is just a darling of the foodies and that is fine. I find the steak good but didn't like the dining experience the last two times I was there. I'm also not a fan of burnt crust which RTS is a signature thing. I find the meat at Capital Grill has a bit more character. To say that RTS is the best steak place in DC area or top 10 in the country (without consideration to price or the kind of dining experience is a bit over stating it).

                      Will say it does bring out the passion in folks.

                  3. Need the lowdown!
                    When are "specials" offered at RTS and Ray's Classics in Arlington? I ask because there was a special on a Tuesday we went, and on a Friday we were told "there aren't any specials!"

                    Second, is there a bar and "bar specials" menu at RC in Arlington? (like i read from a May 07 post)

                    Whar's on special now, anyone?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: alkapal

                      RTS in Arlington has a special menu on Sunday night only. In fact, the entire restaurant converts to "A Place at the Table". It's a 3 course meal (soup or salad, choice of entree, and dessert) for $25, $30, or $35, with $10 going to a designated charity. Any other specials at RTS are irregular and usually just a special cut, not any pricing deal.

                      RTC has a bar menu, available Tuesday - Friday, and only in the bar. It's similar to the "Place at the Table" menu at RTS - 3 courses for a fixed price, but only a couple of entrees are offered (including the "chopped steak", which is actually NOT on the dining room menu!)

                      1. re: DanielK

                        how is the sunday evening thing? what time does it open?

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I think 5 or 5:30? Same reservation policy as the rest of the week - stop in anytime after they open the front doors, usually 3 or 4, and put your name down for a time to return later.

                      2. re: alkapal

                        Alkapal>> Hopefully I'm reading your earliest post this morning wrong, but there are two restaurants and three locations being discussed in this thread:

                        Ray's The Classics is located in Silver Spring and takes reservations. It has a bar, high-top bar area tables & bar specials in addition to a fairly swank dining room. Having knowing and kind bartenders adds alot to the Ray's experience. Sadly, it's closed on Sundays.

                        Ray's The Steaks is in Arlington and open 7 days a week without reservations, just the sign-in sheet. It will relocate at some point from the strip mall [barebones decor, no waiting area, no bar or real specials other than the Sunday dinner] to Courthouse leaving the original location open for the "Place at the Table" meals for a while. The new RTS location will be closer to Metro if that's important. Maybe it'll have barmen too.

                        1. re: Lydia R

                          Lydia - you've got it exactly right. We live about 5 minutes from Classics but prefer the original, notwithstanding the drive and the lines. We visited on Sunday. They opened at 5. We arrived at 5:30 and had a wait of one hour. By 6, the wait was two hours. All food was as wonderful as has always been the case, and as for the service, well, I don't doubt the veracity of those who have had problems (though after standing outdoors and waiting an hour or more, perhaps they are just more sensitive to minor annoyances than they might otherwise e?), we've never had any problem whatsoever.

                          For those who think there is a lack of objectivity - well, not in our case. We really, honestly, objectively think that this is the best steak (we prefer the hangar or the NY strip) we've ever had, by far. The price makes it that much the better. We love the sides (though wish they'd vary from time-to-time). We like heavy char, but they absolutely, positively will cook it without the char if you ask (Soup) so don't complain. Just say how you want your steak fixed.

                          The icing on the cake is the contribution of $5 for each meal served on Sunday (A Place at the Table).

                          It would be nice to have a bar at RTS, and perhaps the new location will have a bar. We would prefer to be able to make a reservation, but it isn't a huge issue for us. We've decided that the hassle is worth it.

                          In the past, there have been specials offered on Tuesdays, but I don't know if that's the case anymore. The owner, Michael Landrum, occasionally shows up on dr.com (his posts are hilarious and/or thought-provoking) and either he or someone else on that board will announce the availability of specials. Haven't seen any in quite a while, though.

                      3. I think Ray's the steaks could possibly be the best steak in DC/Virginia/Maryland.

                        I got to go for the first time tonight with the BF. We got there around 7:10 and we were told we would be seated at 7:45, we got some drinks and sat on a glider. BF got some red wine, I got a glass of cava and it was warm enough that standing outside was quite enjoyable.

                        We were seated quickly might even have been before 7:45. I ordered the house special NY strip au poivre with mushroom sauce and blue cheese, medium rare. BF ordered NY strip au poivre.

                        It came out quickly and one bite and I am hooked. I am a big red meat girl. Grew up on a beef farm, and have eaten my way through a lot of steak. This was incredible. It was cooked perfectly I liked the sides and that they were included. Nice outside crisp with good pink inside. Good deal too. Staff was extremely pleasent. I am so glad this place is near my house, will definately go back as many times as I can drag the BF there. This blows away any other DC/MD/VA steak place as far as I'm concerned. It might be the best I have had, but I have eaten so much steak in my life I can't really compare, but it will be memorable. I have leftovers tomorrow, mmm. Huge portions for the price. I felt so bad that I couldn't finish it because it was so good.

                        And the bite of potato candy dessert was good too, left a pleasant PB taste in the mouth.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: ktmoomau

                          ktmoomau, how much was your "special" NY strip? (because on Friday, mr. alka and i both had the NY strip, very good!) and it wasn't on "special." I read above that specials are offered on a sporadic basis. (i got the bernaise, which is pretty good.) we love the spinach side, and the potatoes are so fresh tasting.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I'm not ktmoomau, but my husband had the Special NY strip at Ray's The Classic. Think "special" as in signature dish. Not special as in price break. He thinks the price was $28.

                            1. re: Indy 67

                              that sounds about right, but the very first time we went to RTS, there was a "special" and i can't recall the cut, but it was 18.95, sliced in rather large pieces, and served with your sauce of choice. wasn't the tenderest. i liked my recent NY strip much better. enough for two meals.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                That might have been the hangar steak. It's a very beefy, flavorful cut, but it's definitely a more chewy cut - short of braising it, it will never be tender.

                                That and the cowboy rib-eye are my favorite cuts at Ray's, or anywhere.

                                1. re: DanielK

                                  it wasn't hangar. but it might have been a neighbor.

                                  1. re: DanielK

                                    Ordinarily, I would agree with your description of hangar, but the first time I ordered hangar at RTS, I had to ask if they'd brought me the right cut because it was melt-in-the-mouth tender. Don't know how he does it, but it's been that way on every visit. I strongly prefer flavor to texture (travel outside the U.S. and you will have lots of very tasty but chewy beef). The hangar steak at RTS manages to combine the best qualities of flavor and texture.

                                2. re: Indy 67

                                  You are correct it is a signature dish called the House Special. I think it was 28.95 or 29.95. It combines the au poivre, cream sauce with mushrooms and blue cheese options.

                                  1. re: ktmoomau

                                    But the "house special" is a NY Strip served the way you describe, not a sliced steak in pieces.

                                    There are some special, smaller, less expensive cuts that are only offered infrequently, such as the hangar or calotte. They do tend to be less tender, but more flavorful, than cuts such as strip or ribeye.

                                    1. re: DanielK

                                      To answer questions about the specials... There are three that are offered, however not on a daily basis. There is the coulotte.. It comes from the NY strip and is pre sliced. mmm. my favorite! There is also the bacon-wrapped medallions and finally the sidekick, which is a smaller version of the cowboy.

                                      1. re: dcw

                                        The "coulotte" or "calotte" in French, is the cap of the rib. You know when you buy a ribeye, that delicious tender part on the outside of the rib? That's it. Knockout cut.

                                        Mark

                            2. Went again last night. Crab bisque was perfect! i got a cup, but the next table ordered a large bowl. (When we chatted after dinner -- the tables are very close! -- he said he had it last time and made sure to get the bigger bowl.)
                              Mr. alka got the steak with bleu cheese and onions. was delicious, and my hanger steak was flavorful and juicy and tender. while we ordered medium, both were served medium rare. we liked it. (i think the waitress had "medium rare" pre-programmed, and cannot remember "medium".) i like the hanger better than the coulotte. much more tender and juicy. better flavor, too.

                              their little peanut butter fudge is getting better, too!.

                              btw, are the tables (2-2-tops and one 4-top) next to the kitchen (on the other side of the divider) special in some way?

                              btw, menu sign outside says it is open on Sunday nights (and did not mention another name, like "share our table" or whatever the "charity" name is).

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: alkapal

                                They used to give diners a "tip sheet" explaining the way they rate the "doneness" of the meat. On our last two visits, they didn't do that. Too bad, because it was really very useful. The fact of the matter is that their definitions differ from what people usually think of as rare, medium rare, medium. Generally, one entire category lower. So, for instance, what we think of as medium rare everywhere else is called medium at Ray's. You need to take that into account when you order. It took us a while to get used to this. So you said medium, not realizing that it doesn't mean the same thing as medium elsewhere. As I recall, they judge by temperature, not appearance. Don't blame the waitress. However, it would be a good idea to ask for this tip sheet next time you visit.

                                They are open on Sundays, and they call the restaurant A PLACE AT THE TABLE and give $5 per cover to charity. Apparently, they intend to continue this practice after they move to Clarendon, though I'm not clear on whether they intend to continue holding it in Arlington or if they plan to do it at the new location.

                                I think the only thing special about those three tables near the kitchen is that they are a bit quieter because they are somewhat sheltered.

                                1. re: Just Visiting

                                  our mediums had substantial red centers. why would temp usage yield a different understanding of these degrees of doneness we all have known for years? i have seen that sheet, and will check it again.

                                  when are they moving?

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    They are just using a different standard of measurement and a different scale. It isn't as though there is some official definition or standard. There is a common understanding, but it isn't official in anyway. Ray's chooses to use a more objective standard (temperature can be measured, appearance is subjective) . And then they tell the customer what labels attach to each of those degrees of doneness. So it is just a question of knowing that they have a different standard and how it works.

                                    Redness isn't the entire definition of rare, medium rare, or medium. For rare, the center should be red and slightly warm. For medium rare, the entire center should be warm, but still red. And for medium, the center is red and hot, with pink around the edges.

                                    So you can see why this is very subjective and hard for both the customer and the restaurant to get it right.

                                    I don't know when they are moving.

                                    1. re: Just Visiting

                                      I think that in most upscale steakhouses, the scale for doneness slides more towards rare than most people are used to. I would go so far as to suggest that rare should have a cool red center.

                                      I think that preference may have something to do with the cut, as well, though. I generally like thick steaks rare (cool, red center) but I like the hangar at Ray's Medium Rare.

                                      1. re: DC Taco

                                        From the horse's mouth (the equid in question being the improprietor, Ray Landrum):

                                        From the Ray's Manifesto--our guide de-emphasizes color since that is highly subjective (everyone's idea of "pink" is different), stresses firmness since that is a very key determinant in guests' perception of doneness even though never consciously so; our stated temperatures are lower to reflect the actual temperature of the center when pulled from the grill, but carry-over cooking is meant to raise internal temperatures by 5 degrees:

                                        "About Our Temperatures:
                                        Our Steaks are grilled to order over a high-temperature open flame and served immediately; they are never “rested and re-fired” or finished in the oven. We cook our steaks according to internal temperature, not according to color and allow for “carry-over” cooking. Our beef is a natural product and varies in color due to age, climate, feed and time of year–from a veal-like pink to a deep crimson. Here then is as accurate a guide as possible to our temperatures:

                                        Rare: Cool, soft red center; moderate char.
                                        Medium Rare: Warm, semi-soft red center; full char.
                                        Medium: 135 Degree, semi-firm “red-to-pink center”; heavy char.
                                        Medium-Well: 145 Degree, firm center; extra-heavy char, allow 30-35 mins.
                                        Well Done: 155 Degree, solid center; excessive char, allow 35-40 mins.

                                        We strive for the greatest precision and care possible. If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with your meal, please let us know as soon as possible so that we may make it right. However, we do not recommend or guarantee temperatures above medium or “in-between” temperatures."

                                        The most difficult aspect of timing and temperature, and the most common source of re-cooks besides contradictory notions of "pink", is the concept of carry-over cooking. Extra-thick steakhouse cuts cooked at 800-1500 degrees continue to cook 3 minutes for rare, 5 minutes for mid-rare, 10 minutes for medium and more for higher temps. At Ray's we include carry-over cooking in our cook times, but split the middle for mediums and above--meaning that we allow for more of the cooking to continue on the plates for mediums than for medium rares. Therefore, if you order medium or above, you should start eating at the smallest part of the steak and move towards the center, and not cut into the center immediately to judge doneness.

                                        Regardless of what temperature you order, if at your first bite the steak appears over-done, you should then cut into the middle to ascertain doneness before assuming that the steak is over-done.

                                        One final note, I do notice a very strong regional basis for disagreement regarding doneness, with people from Texas/the Midwest having a much higher idea of what medium is and what "pink" is.

                                        1. re: Just Visiting

                                          Hi Just Visiting. We love your place. Thanks for the information on the steak doneness scale! i know that the waitress would have whisked it back, and she in fact offered, but we liked it as it came out. i think even she acknowledged that it was medium rare (but we said, no don't take it back, we like it!). btw, i am from Florida -- so I know about "pink" flesh! ;-D

                                          btw, Just Visiting, i believe the restaurant is yours, but isn't your first name something else? maybe we should now call it "JUST the steaks!" (see, your steaks are making me clever too -- or maybe it is the delicious spinach.)

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Just Visiting, i just realized that i misconstrued your post. i thought you were the proprieter! sorry. ps why is the true owner the "improprieter"?

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              No, I am definitely NOT the owner of Ray's the Steaks. I can't cook to save my life. Were I the owner, though, I wouldn't have to wait outdoors for 30-90 minutes to get a table. If you read my posts, you would have seen my references to having had to wait. I took the time to find and provide the info on the doneness scale because you seemed to be unhappy about it and seemed to imply that the owner had no business using a standard other than the one with which you are familiar. The owner calls himself "the improprietor" - he has a wickedly funny sense of humor and his posts are as enjoyable as his food.

                                              1. re: Just Visiting

                                                geesh, Just Visiting! i said thanks, didn't i?

                                  2. re: alkapal

                                    Do you think it is peanut butter fudge or potatoe candy? It really tasted a lot like potatoe candy to me, but only had a small portion of white so I wasn't sure? I thought it would be smart to make potato candy if they have extra mashed potatoes.

                                    I think Ask Tom, or a first bite in the past discussed all the new plans for Ray's, and his new restaurant (A place at the Table). You could search the archive.

                                    1. re: ktmoomau

                                      Hi, I am thinking about going to Ray's in Arlington for the first time on Friday? How long should i expect to wait if I get there from 8-9 (Friday)? thanks.

                                      1. re: dbs185

                                        I just went there last night at 7ish w/ a party of five and they asked me to wait 45 minutes. I left my number and they called me about 15 minutes later saying a table was ready. I had already left the vicinity and told them I would be back in 10 minutes. I got back and the table was ready. This is not the first time that they have given me a long wait only to be pleasantly surprised that the wait is shorter. HOWEVER, I also have waited 45 minutes to an hour for a table for 2. They are generally consistently busy and probably VERY busy Friday night so plan on waiting. It should be nice and warm so grab a glass of wine and stand outside with your fellow waiting diners or go over to Cafe Asia and get a drink at the bar!

                                        1. re: enfant_gatée

                                          From the horse's ("Ray") mouth, as posted on another board:

                                          "Typical waits on a weekday, peak times (6:30-8:30), are 1 to 1 1/2 hours. To avoid waits, you can come by the restaurant any time after 4 (about 80% of the time either I or that girl, whatshername, will be there to take names from 12, and from 2 about 90%) and put your name down on the list for your choice of times later that same day. Once your name is on the list, you do not have to wait at the restaurant, simply return at that time and you will be seated right away or shortly thereafter. If we are on a wait, the party must be complete before being seated so that complete parties do not have to wait while otherwise available tables are partly occupied (I know that this is a touchstone for controversy and ire, but I also think that, when explained this way, the reasoning and fairness behind this system are quite evident).

                                          The best strategy to dining at Ray's is to stop in on your way home from work, while out running errands, or before your movie, put your name on the list, go about your business, and come back later for dinner at the appointed time."

                                          1. re: enfant_gatée

                                            I have normally been told about 45 minutes and in the summer sometimes longer as more people are willing to wait outside. Sometimes we wait all 45 sometimes shorter. In the winter it has normally been shorter, but we normally go on weeknights to avoid crowds. You are also eating later so that might help.

                                    2. Only if you compare it to Outback or Longhorn Steakhouses. I can easily name five better steakhouses without breaking a sweat. Wait, I thought about it for another five seconds and came up with another five. So, I am now at ten that are better than Ray's. Give me another 30 seconds and I will probably come up with another 20.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Fracis

                                        yeah, i see you've commented negatively about ray's for years.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          I grew up in Montana and my family raises angus to this day. I have eaten a lot of very tender, albeit boring steaks here on the east coast. Rays does a pretty good job of plating a well prepared steak at a great price in a friendly atmosphere.
                                          Is it a great steak? No. But it is a very good one, and the sides range from good to phenomenal. The next best steak I have had in Virginia was a ribeye I got at Flemings several years ago. I was shocked at how good it was considering Paul Fleming of PF Changs doesn't do much of anything to impress at his 'chinese' restaurant. Maybe it was a one off, because I have never gone back, but it was nearly as good as Rays hanger steak. And Ray's rib eyes are pretty good, as well. They aren't the most tender but I will take flavor over tender any day.