Visiting DC - Steak Rec for anniversary dinner?
Looking at the boards, Ray's seems to win on taste and value - but it doesn't sound like the right ambience for my husband and I who will be celebrating our 17th anniversary by visiting DC from the UK.
Don't get me wrong - we don't do formal, stuffy or overromantic gestures, but would like someplace that serves great steaks, where we can wear smart jeans and have decent conversation as well as food.
As tourists we're limited to places accessible by public transit - any suggestions for some place that fits the bill but won't completely crash the bank?
What have you read about Ray's that seems to be a mismatch with your desire for ambiance? I'm guessing it's the "decent conversation" criterion. I'm one of the posters who has complained about the noise level, but other posters insist that if I had been able to snag a table at the reserved half of the restaurant, I would have found the noise level to be entirely acceptable. (I don't know the Metro system well enough to supply information about the walking distance from the subway stop.)
All the other steak restaurants in DC are at a wholly different -- read expensive -- price point. I think J&G Steakhouse or Charlie Palmer would be a good fit for the ambiance you're looking for, but the prices will be higher than at Ray's. Incidentally, my husband and I -- along with the POST's restaurant critic -- adore J & G for its non-steak offerings. The prices of these non-steak choices are kinder to the wallet. The restaurant's over-all vibe will fit your smart jean/decent conversation requirements at prices much more humane than the steak options. (Of the two steakhouses I mentioned, I think J & G would be the more Metro accessible of the two.)
515 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Ray's has it's fanatical defenders but it lacks the ambiance (and frankly, the quality) of DC's best.
My favorite is Bourbon steak but BLT is just as good -- and more metro accessible -- and also Charlie Palmer is a home run. Those 3 are the top in DC, every place else (Ray's Morton's, Prime Rib, Bobby Van's, Capital Grille, Palm, Sam & Harry's) is either a small or big step down from there. Have not been to J&G but his steakhouse Prime in Bellagio is nothing special.
I like Ray's, but agree it does not have the "ambiance" one might be looking for in an anniversary celebration. I was not as impressed with Bourbon steak as some others are. The room is very nice, the service very good, etc, but the last two times I've been the steaks were overdone and had to be sent back. That said, the sides, and small touches there are wonderful. Charlie Palmer has a wonderful view of the Capitol, a good wine list (and sommelier) and I've enjoyed my meals there. Obviously, places like Ruths Chris, Morton's, etc are chains and if you have been to one, you've been to them all. Capital Grille is pretty good, but expensive (but what steak house isn't?) and Bobby Van's didn't impress me the few times I've been. I've heard nothing but good things about J&G but haven't been so I can't offer an opinion. Prime Rib requires men to wear a jacket BTW.
601 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
2020 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
I second the recommendation for Charlie Palmer. I particularly like a side of mushrooms there. I think it has a nicer ambiance than Ray's, but has decent value.
I am kind of on the fence about whether Ray's is right for you. On the one hand it is exactly the casual great steak, place. The wine list is great, they have the best Sommelier in the area. Their crab bisque is crazy good and the steak tartare in deviled eggs is great too. It is quieter in the reservation room. In fact Hubby and I have had some great dates there in smart jeans. But the walls are white. The staff won't necessarily dote on you.
There have been a lot of improvements in my mind since they changed location though. The ambiance and staff got better, as well as, the wine list. So that is it, it is very love it or hate it. I think the steak there is really good, but Charlie Palmer may be a safer bet.
FWIW, my husband and I went to Rays the Steak for our anniversary but got there very early (before 6pm, closer to 5). It was pretty empty so pretty quiet but it's not by any means romantic. I liked eating that early because there's so much food and we had time to take a walk after, since we were stuffed, and that was perfect for an anniversary.