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Nov 3, 2011 09:04 PM

Ray's Steak and Cheese

Yeah, some of us are "Ray's out," but being a fan I had to give it a try, so I drove up to Wilson Blvd mid-afternoon to give it a shot.

The place was near deserted when I got there, something of an anomaly in the space formerly occupied by Ray's Hell Burger Too. I expected table service and then saw a couple of people ordering in the back. No menu. Nice. A manager cursing out staff. Nice. The haphazard chaos of a newly-opened dive, but not by seasoned professionals, but with a feeling of amateurishness. Not so nice.

Ah, but I'm here for the food. A"steak and cheese" as they not-so-quitely proclaim. Not a "Philly," nor anything "authentic," mind you, but a "steak and cheese."

Ordering was about as simple as it gets. When I requested my "steak and cheese," the cashier asked "Is that it?" I asked, "What else comes on it?" to which she replied, "mushrooms, jalapenos and grilled peppers." I went for the peppers.

When I got the sandwich, it didn't look very impressive. The roll seemed a bit too large since the fillings were jammed in the middle. It took me a good two bites of the impressive tasting roll to get to the good stuff – a fine combination of meats and cheeses. I could do without the lettuce, which seemed totally out of place. The tomato also was a near-miss, but could do, I suppose. The peppers were in there somewhere, but I couldn't taste them much. The star – the meat itself, however, was tasty, juicy and flavorful. It seemed of good quality, so bonus points there. All together though, it was just above average for me.

On the side, the tots were about as ordinary as it gets, but were a fair accompaniment. The thought of Ore-Idas flash-fried went through my mind, but they went down well enough.

All in all, a good lunch, but if you're seeking the holy grail of "steak and cheeses," cheesesteaks or even sandwiches, this only satisfies, but doesn't seem to command the respect of multiple visits. I might go back if a friend wanted to go, but I doubt I'd go out of my way for it again, like I do for the occasional Hell-Burger. I suppose for folks yearning for a decent sand, it'll work.

Anyone else have a go?

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  1. I saw this on Eater also and was curious, but saw that he kept re-iterating "not Philly", "not authentic" so I was skeptical. Plus, the addition of lettuce and tomato?! Blech.

    Anyone have a good place for a Philly here?

    5 Replies
      1. re: ahack

        That looks like a winner. What's a "water ice?"

        1. re: biscuit

          That's what they call Italian ices in Philadelphia.

      2. re: mdpilam

        South Street Steaks, in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, makes a respectable Philly cheesesteak, if not a great one.

        South Street Steaks
        4856 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

        1. re: DanielK

          Definitely; and the Bethesda store is open again after a 4-month hiatus because someone crashed their car into the building.

      3. I'm confused. Which Ray's is this? The ones in Arlington aren't very far apart. Got an address? Is this the new place that specializes in steak frites? Or yet another one? Somebody should post a map. ;)

        I'm not really hankering for a steak and cheese, just want to keep my Ray's straight.

        4 Replies
        1. re: MikeR

          Four places in Arlington right now, all with Wilson Blvd addresses:
          Ray's the Steaks (2300)
          Ray's Hell Burger (1725)
          Ray's Steak and Cheese (1713)
          Ray's to the Third (1650)

          Ray's Hell Burger
          1713 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209

          1. re: DanielK

            Thanks for the rundown.

            Is Steak and Cheese in the place where the original Hell Burger was? I thought that became a table service place with smaller burgers, but I was never in there. Or is that somewhere else? Or come and gone?

            Times like this I really wish Ray's had a web site. It's getting so you can't tell the players without a program unless you're a serious regular (as I know you, Daniel, are).

            1. re: MikeR

              Mike, yes, Steak and Cheese is now in the spot that was the original Hell Burger, that then became Hell Burger Too.

              They do have a website ( , but it's not updated with the recent switches.

              1. re: DanielK

                Thanks for the web link. I got so used to him not having a web site that I stopped looking for the obvious. It seems to be updated with the Steak and Cheese now.


        2. Too busy to find the "ultimate" discussion on this but a steak and cheese and a cheesesteak are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SANDWICHES. The former a local grown thing, the latter is the better known from Philly.

          I think the OP had good insights on what was good and what was not, but I need to make it clear he did not even order a Philly Cheesesteak, so that if that was the goal, it was destined to fail from the beginning. It probably had mayo on it, too.

          16 Replies
          1. re: Dennis S

            Echoing Dennis, cheese steaks and steak and cheese sandwiches are related, but they aren't even close to being the same sandwich. And having been to Geno's and Pat's in Philadelphia, which used to be considered to be excellent but now, not so much, I am not as sure what a cheese steak is supposed to taste like. But I do know that a good steak and cheese with mayo, tomatoes and lettuce should taste like, and it is at Al's in Del Ray. And at Mario's if they will leave those sickening sweet pickles off it. I will have to check out Ray's because he does seem to achieve excellence in just about everything he tries.

            1. re: Dennis S

              There is a sign posted right at the cash register, as plain as day that says:
              “WARNING: We absolutely do not serve ‘Philly’ or anything ‘cheesesteaks!!!’ We do not claim or attempt to be anyone’s idea of ‘authentic”
              Hope that clears things up. This is the original, genuine Landrum-style Arlington steak and cheese.

              1. re: Dennis S

                Steak and cheese s a DC thing? Substantiate it.

                1. re: Worldwide Diner

                  Well, it's not definitive, but Joe H has been in the area for a long time (if not his whole life) and is respected as to knowing the history of the foods he eats. The thread below is one of the better explanations, though I believe there's one better.


                  In Philly, the one that we call Steak and Cheese is usually called a cheesesteak hoagie.

                  While we're on the subject, I would have to once again say that Jimmy's in Herndon does a good cheesesteak.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    Interesting read. I appreciate the link.

                  2. re: Worldwide Diner

                    The Steak and cheese is indeed a DC sandwich. Mario's has been serving one since 1958. For starters, it's made with sliced ribeye and provolone, not flap meat and cheezwhiz. Lettuce, tomato and mayo is a common preparation. Having grown up on Mario's, my preference is the slaw/hot peppers/sweet pickle combination I've enjoyed for the last 45 years. There are several local variations, but real ribeye steak is the fundamental difference between DC and Philly. If you are a DC-area native, there is no explanation required. Nevertheless, hats off to Landrum for educating the non-native masses.

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      I would not bet the ranch that the steak and cheese is a DC "thing". Viola's Subs, in Niagara Falls, has been serving steak and cheese subs (with italian seasoning, tomatoes, onion and lettuce) since the mid-1950s as well.

                      1. re: reiflame

                        Thanks reiflame. Just because some place has served a burger since 1950s doesn't mean it originated there.

                        "According to the Library of Congress, the first steak sandwich sold in the United States was at Louis' Lunch of New Haven, Connecticut" according to Wikipedia.

                        DC may have had a steak and cheese sandwich since the 1950s but that doesn't mean much of anything.

                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                          I thought Louis' Lunch invented the hamburger.

                        2. re: reiflame

                          I didn't say it was exclusively a DC thing, no more than fried chicken wings with hot sauce are exclusively a Buffalo thing. Philly has their cheesesteaks, we have our steak and cheese. That's the point Landrum (a DC native) is taking pains to explain. If you come from another city that has a "steak" sandwich, that's great.

                        3. re: flavrmeistr

                          It's not just a DC sandwich. We ate these at all the Greek and Italian sub shops in and around Boston growing up. It's different than a cheesesteak. What I grew up with was a sub/hoagie roll filled with seared chopped up steak (cooked on a flat top), with Provolone cheese...that's it! If you are going to add anything it will be grilled onions.

                          1. re: Elyssa

                            Unless you got a steak bomb! Having grown up in boston but spending 6 years in Philadelphia I can definitely appreciate both.

                            1. re: cambridgeMike

                              A steak bomb is again different than a steak and cheese...both delicious.

                              And let's not even get started on steak tip sandwiches! (Steak tips is one of my favorite Boston-based foods that you can't find in DC).

                              1. re: Elyssa

                                Steak tips are amazing. As are the roast beef sandwiches on the north shore I'm heading back to the homeland on Friday and my first stop will be Nick's in Beverly.

                                1. re: cambridgeMike

                                  I'm from the Northshore! My favorite place to get steak tips growing up was Brody's in Peabody. They also have really good salad dressing.

                      2. re: Dennis S

                        I knew it wasn't a cheesesteak, as I mentioned, which was a bad attempt at humor and not the goal. Am also not familiar with what a "steak and cheese" should be. Nonetheless it didn't fully work for me as a complete package, regardless.

                      3. Is this place anywhere near a metro stop? Would love to check it out at some point.

                        Also does the lettuce and tomato come on the sandwich automatically? That just seems wrong...and certainly not in the classic steaks and cheeses I've had before (and for the record, growing up in Boston we called it steak and cheese. I didn't start calling it cheesesteak until moving down to DC and getting the influence of Philadelphia).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Elyssa

                          It's just about mid way between the Court House and Rosslyn Metro stops which makes it about half a mile from each. Unless you'd like some exercise after your steak and cheese, I'd recommend Court House when your going there and Rosslyn when you're leaving. That will have you walking down hill most of the time.

                          I'm sure you can ask for the sandwich without lettuce and tomato. I expect they're added in final assembly.

                          1. re: MikeR

                            I got one without lettuce. It was a bit salty but tasty.

                            1. re: ahack

                              Good idea. I might even go back and order it that way.