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Ray's The Steaks

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.