January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

The terrific chops at this barebones steakhouse have a big foodie following.

No. 38: Ray’s the Steaks

If most steakhouses seem like they have the soul of Donald Trump, this one, housed in an Arlington strip mall, feels more like punk-rocker Henry Rollins. It’s as anti­establishment as a steakhouse gets—the walls are bare and white, the waitresses are in jeans, and a skull-and-crossbones flag waves over the kitchen.

The spotlight is on the food: The beef is cut daily from sides of Hereford and Angus cattle. The hanger steak, a bargain at $20, may be the area’s best steak for the price; the creamy, brandy-spiked mushroom sauce is an unnecessary if blissful addition. For $10 more, there’s a beautifully marbled 28-ounce cowboy cut—a bone-in rib eye—or a velvety New York strip with bleu-cheese crumbles. Skillets heaped with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes come gratis. But there’s more than just meat and potatoes: A plate of seared scallops would be the envy of any fish house, as would the lightly creamy crab bisque. And a hubcap-size grilled portobello, smeared with a salsa diablo, satisfies like a steak.

Now that owner Michael Landrum has a second restaurant to look after, Ray’s the Classics in Silver Spring, he might not be there when you visit, and the place sometimes suffers from his absence—harried servers, rushed timing, and uneven cooking. And because the very popular place doesn’t take reservations, there’s usually a line, and waits for one of the 45 seats can be long.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.