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Advice to a first time Ray's the Stakes'er?

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Hello All - I have done a number of steak searches here on the board, but would really appreciate any direct advice that some seasoned folks can give... I am taking my boyfriend and brother to Ray's the Steaks this Saturday night for the boyfriend's 31st birthday. Because the place doesn't have a website, as far as I can tell, here are some things I'm wondering:
- Am I better off here in Arlington than at Ray's the Classics? Foodwise? Price wise? Ambience?
- Somewhat related, what are the average prices at RTS? BF and brother both LOVE ribeyes and we'd probably order 1-2 drinks each.
- Any menu suggestions from someone who's been there recently?
- I am prepared for an atrocious wait and so-so service (ah, low expectations - so safe!); anything else I should know ahead of time so a special night out isn't ruined?

We went to Ruth's Chris on a giftcard a little while back and were underwhelmed - wouldn't spend my own money there EVER. Please tell me this is a better choice!!!

Thanks in advance!

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  1. This is a much better choice. Ihave never been to Rays the Classics so I don't know how they compare, but if the steak is exactly the same from another paster go there so you can get a reservation. You can buy drinks while you wait from the hostess, which is highly recommended. I think the ambiance is minimal, service for us was more than adequate, prices are I think like 29.95 for most steak dishes and the portion is huge and comes with family style mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. I enjoy the house special which has their mushrooms, and brandy sauce and blue cheese, it is sooo good. I think you will really enjoy it. It is not fancy smancy, but it is very good and I love going and wouldn't like it as much if it was.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ktmoomau

      Thanks! Very helpful, and I hope to hear more about whether the food is really equivalent at RTC (because I agree, reservations would be more ideal)... Much appreciated.

    2. For a birthday dinner, I strongly recommend Ray's the Classics over Ray's the Steaks. Both will be tremendous values, and the quality of the food is equivalent at both - consistently well prepared and delicious. But at Ray's the Classics you can make a reservation, and you can have a drink at the bar either before or after - or you can eat in the bar area - there are several tall four tops in there that are quite comfortable, and there is a separate bar menu with a few items you won't find on the restaurant menu. RTC is more upscale - cushy booths, nice '40s music playing in the background...I call it retro swank, but not plush like The Prime Rib. You won't find floral arrangements, candles, or artwork on the walls. If you like rib steaks, get the 30 oz. bone-in rib "Cowboy" cut for only $31.95 (it comes with a large serving of creamed spinach and a large serving of mashed potatoes - bring an appetite!)
      There is also a broader food and wine selection at RTC, as well as mixed drinks. RTS prices are a bit lower, (IRCC most everything is in the upper teens to upper 20s) but you're also probably going to have to stand or sit outside if there's a wait, and it's more bare-bones, louder and the tables are much closer together. If you decide to go to RTC, there is free parking in the huge lot behind the building after 6pm, and Metro is very close. RTS has free parking too, but it's hard to get a spot on a Saturday night.

      Best thing to do at RTS is to stop by any time after 4pm and get your name on their list for a certain time that evening. Once your name is on the list, just go back at that time and you will be seated pretty quickly.

      1 Reply
      1. re: galleycat

        I agree. Don't bother with the original... go with Rays the Classics. Much better experience overall.

      2. Where are you coming from? If you live in NoVA then I don't think it's worth going all the way to RTC.

        4 Replies
        1. re: jaydreb

          I'm in NW D.C. and will have a car and am willing to travel either to VA or MD. We don't mind a little drive... I guess I'm just trying to figure out if the increase in comfort at RTC is worth the price difference - kind of hard to do without having seen both places! When we went to the Conn. Ave Ruth's Chris, we were VERY disappointed with the food but the BF did like the cozy ambience. So maybe I should just spring for RTC :). As a full-time student (who nonetheless sometimes finds a $300 dinner bill in front of me), I just want to be strategic about the expense...

          1. re: Oobay

            RTC isn't more than a couple of dollars more per person than RTS. It's definitely a nicer environment, with a spacious bar, comfortable tables and booths, and a more elegant feel and service. It's also a more extensive menu, and leads to longer, more relaxed meals.

            I live closer to RTC, so while I find myself at RTC more than RTS, they're still both on the favorites list, and I can't say that my check is that much higher at RTC then RTS.

            1. re: Oobay

              If your boyfriend liked "the cozy ambience" of Ruth's Chris he may be very disappointed with Ray's. I am one of the few people on this board who feel that the overall experience is good but given the choice for a celebratory evening at a steak house I, personally, would never consider Ray's. I'd go to the Capital Grille or Charlie Palmer Steak. Ray's steaks are, indeed, outstanding. But Ruth's Chris, Palmer's, the Capital Grille and others represent entirely different types of overall experiences. For myself I honestly believe the food at the Capital Grille on PA Avenue and Palmer's is, at a minimum, as good as Ray's. The difference is ambience. There is also a huge difference in the amibence between Ray's in Silver Spring and, say, the Capital Grille. Ray's on Wilson Boulevard is fantastic if you have on jeans and want seriously good food at a more than reasonable price, in fact cheap for the quality served.

              But for a birthday celebration for someone who likes the ambience of Ruth's Chris, I think, Ray's is a risk. The Capital Grille and Palmer's are both far superior to anything Ruth's Chris puts on the table.

            2. re: jaydreb

              And if you live nearby you can stop in around 4 pm to put your name on the list. Tell them what time you want to come, be a little flexible, and most likely your table will be ready shortly after you arrive.

            3. Actually if you end up at RTS and don't want to wait outside next door Guajillo has a bar area in the back you could hang out at for a little bit.

              1. Menu suggestions: The crab bisque puts all others to shame. It's just that good. I'm particularly fond of the hangar steak. The steaks are huge; I think I have always brought half of mine home for lunch the next day. The quality is high and we consider the place a ridiculous bargain for what it delivers.

                However, the Arlington location is bare-bones and very noisy. You will hear the kitchen, You will hear everyone in the restaurant as sound bounces off the cement floors and the tin ceilings. You should probably go to RTC instead.

                We're early diners (most of our visits have included the chowpup, who is a big fan) and have not had issues with the wait, nor have we found the staff anything other than gracious. They get huge extra points for adding extra sides (the gratis spinach and mashed potatoes) to the leftovers after we'd demolished what was on the table.

                We last went on a Sunday, where there are only fixed price menus at 3 price points (25/30/35) which include a choice of appetizer/soup course, a meat course, and dessert. I believe the regular menu's mains run from $19 for the hangar to about $29. These include a serving for the table of creamed spinach and mashed potatoes, which other steak houses will sell a la carte for $6 each.

                3 Replies
                1. re: PollyG

                  Well, I waited too long for reservations at RTC and they only have 9 pm available now - that's too late for our other birthday evening plans. I think we'll head over to Arlington for RTS, knowing that the ambience will be minimal, and try our luck there. We have some NoVA backups in case the wait is too long. Thanks to all for suggestions and feedback - much appreciated!

                  1. re: Oobay

                    RTC Friday and Saturday nights tend to fill up the prime slots a couple of weeks in advance.

                    Realize that the only way to go to RTS and get a table on Saturday is to go over in the afternoon and put your name down for a time. If you go over at 7 or 8 on Saturday night, the wait is guaranteed to be over an hour, possibly longer.

                    Alternately, if you don't mind eating in the bar, RTC does not take reservations for their half-dozen bar tables. As long as you get there on the early side, shouldn't be an issue to walk in and grab one.

                    1. re: Oobay

                      I went to RTS with my mom for one of our birthdays last year, and we both had a great time. We're comfortable with the fine dining as well as the 'hole-in-the-wall' experience, and the quality of the food far outweighed any perceived weaknesses in the RTS dining experience. I hope y'all have a great time.

                  2. Wear warm clothes. I was at RTS a couple of weeks ago and we got seated in the front, which is near the door. I had to eat dinner with my coat on.

                    As for food, I don't eat meat, so I always order the blackened scallops. They are amazing. I also love the caesar salad. Most restaurant caesar salads are just awful, but at Ray's I could just eat that with a glass of wine and I'd be happy.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Linda513

                      Report back -

                      So we showed up at RTS around 8 and lucked out because a group of 4 had just "cancelled" - we were seated right away! Our group had the crab bisque, a ceasar salad, and the blackened scallops for starters - all excellent. Then we had the cowboy ribeye (my ridiculous brother ordered this), the regular ribeye w/ horseradish cream, the hangar steak, and the steak salad. Every one of us was more than satisfied; everything was intensely flavorful, perfectly cooked, generously portioned, quickly delivered to the table and almost supernaturally priced. My mom got the steak salad, in the hopes of something light (and for $15 expected something light) - it was HUGE. Basically a medium sized sliced steak with a side of grilled mushrooms, onions, and greens. She was floored when it came to the table. Our waitress was also fantastic; not overly friendly, but attentive and efficient without making us feel rushed.

                      Overall, I think it was the first time I've ever been somewhere that met (and maybe even exceeded) it's reputation. My brother and boyfriend found ribeye heaven, and Ray's just got four more loyal customers! Thanks to the folks who posted for their input.

                      One last thing... Our bill came to somewhere around $160 (we had a super cheap bottle of wine); a couple of months ago we paid almost $220 for only 2 people! at Ruth's Chris for a meal so inferior to this one I can't even get over it. I left RTS reminded of restaurants I loved in France, where decor was minimal but the pride in the food was supreme and the prices were respectful rather than contemptuous of each diner. Why can't every proprietor have the same ethic?

                      1. re: Oobay

                        It's great that you had a nice time. Ruth's and RTS aren't even the same type of restaurant tho so i wouldn't compare them. Ruth's is where you go for ambiance & fussy service (and i've always had really good food there at all the branches...) different strokes for different folks. I think RTS is like a food barn...i agree the food is quite good and reasonable but i can't stand to eat somewhere that is so packed in and loud that i can't have a convo or enjoy my food in peace. I find it is the total experience i look for which is really lacking unfortunately from the 'total package' point of view. But there is no way you should ever pay $220 and feel the experience wasn't even worth it. My local faves have the great food, ambiance & service...but at a price (Obelisk, 1789, Vidalia, etc). If anyone around here ever DOES come up with a place that has the total package AND reasonable prices, it will quickly lose the ambiance factor because all of us hounds will overrun it!!! :)