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Michael Landrum's Newest Project: Nice 'n' Greasy, Steak 'n' Cheesy
The project takes over the former Ray’s Hell Burger Too space . . . which used to be Steak and Cheese. By Todd Kliman
Comments () | Published May 23, 2012
Michael Landrum: restaurateur and...editor? Photograph by Clay McLachlan.

Fickleness?

Uh uh: editing.

So says restaurateur Michael Landrum of his latest project--a do-over of a restaurant he opened suddenly and with no fanfare last November, then promptly shuttered a month later.

Nice ’n’ Greasy, Steak ’n’ Cheesy will open Monday in Arlington, in the space previously called Ray’s Hell Burger Too.

Which was the space previously called Steak and Cheese.

Such caprice has become as typical of Landrum, the iconoclastic owner of Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger, as the bare walls of his dining rooms, the prime beef on his menus, and the lack of a sign out front.

In January, Landrum reopened a restaurant, Ray’s the Steaks at East River, that he had previously closed three months earlier. Last September he opened Ray’s to the Third a mere six hours after making a public announcement, and with no signage out front to alert customers to a new business. Meanwhile, a coffeehouse concept in Mt. Vernon Square to be called Ryse, which Landrum announced with great excitement in November 2010, remains in development, with no timetable set for opening.

Landrum was quick to defend Nice ’n’ Greasy, Steak ’n’ Cheesy against the growing perception of him as “fickle, disorganized, or inconsistent.”

“I see it as ‘How fortunate to be able to edit my work and rewrite,’” he wrote via text message. “I mean, who didn’t ever rewrite a paper or retake a test (or wish the professor would have allowed them to)?”

Steak and Cheese didn’t fail, he said. The failure was his own—in not listening to his audience at Ray’s to the Third, where he had introduced a flat-top-griddled burger. Diners came expecting the Hell Burger, which is grilled, and complained when they received the same ten-ounce prime beef burger sans char and grill marks.

“I should’ve just put a charbroiler in to the kitchen at Ray’s to the Third, but I decided to stick it out and let people adapt. I was wrong. So now we’ve got a charbroiler, and we’re doing the grilled burger at Ray’s to the Third,” he says.

In effect, Ray’s to the Third has replaced Ray’s Hell Burger Too as an overflow space for Ray’s Hell Burger, which Landrum explained “allows me to do something different with the overflow space I had before.”

Which was Steak and Cheese before it became--again--Ray’s Hell Burger Too.

Got all that?

Another complaint of Steak and Cheese patrons was the cost--$10.99 for a half-pounder. This time around, Landrum will be offering a third-pound steak and cheese for $7.99. Intrepid eaters will be able to double the meat and cheese by asking for the Phat Bomb or the Phat ’n’ Greasy--Landrum isn’t sure which name he prefers.

Nor did he remember the name of his Little Tavern “homage”: buy-’em-by-the-bag burgers on potato rolls and available in orders of 3, 6, 9, and 12.

“I forget what I’m calling them--‘snacksters’ or something?”

The fact that Landrum already had a name in mind for the place, he implied, was a pretty big deal for him. As was the fact that he would have a sign out front, possibly by next week--a rarity for a restaurateur who forces would-be diners to hunt and peck through neighborhoods to find him.

“Nice ’n’ Greasy, Steak ’n’ Cheesy,” he said, reveling in the arrangement of the words and imagining how they would look out front. “How are you gonna drive past a sign that says that and not stop in?”

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  • Mikejohn

    This guy is awesome. I've been a fan of his steakhouses for years before I moved out here - best hands down, 'Retro Rays' is the best thing he has going right now. Please never ever close that.

  • ChinnyMcChipstah

    I enjoy his quirkiness-if people really want to keep Arlington (sorta) Weird than we should celebrate our entrepreneurs! Beats getting another Subway or Starbux...

  • Phil

    What a dufus! Who does he think he is? Pablo Picasso? I'm sure he thinks he's cute and charming though. This article is going to kill his business.

  • Arlinme

    “fickle, disorganized, or inconsistent" is exactly right with a dose of delusional.

  • I'm still hoping (though certainly not holding my breath) that something will come out of at least one of the two CityVista spaces (RYSE, and the other spot, which was once rumored as a hell-burger concept).

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Posted at 05:35 PM/ET, 05/23/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs