100 Best Restaurants 2008: Ray’s the Classics

No. 37: Ray's the Classics

Cuisine: Many of the clever retro classics are back—including steak-tartare-filled deviled eggs and crispy fried chicken (the latter a frequent special in the dining room)—but as at Michael Landrum’s original, Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington, the well-tended slabs of aged, prime beef remain front and center. The steaks are cooked with more conviction than at other beef barns—and they’re cheaper, too.

Mood: Despite the white tablecloths and backdrop of dark wood, there’s an everyman quality to the setting, the opposite of clubby steakhouses such as Morton’s.

Best for: Steak lovers who prefer their rib eye without the pomp, and pre- and post-AFI-screening crowds.

Best dishes: Crab bisque thick with lump crab; beautifully crusted entrecôte; robust hanger steak; rosy rack of lamb with velvety red-pepper sauce; crab royale finished with butter and seasoned with Old Bay; not-too-nutmeggy creamed spinach; dreamy mashed potatoes; tart Key-lime pie.

Insider tips: That fabulous fried chicken is also offered as part of a three-course bistro dinner at the bar for $22.95. Unlike Ray’s the Steaks, Ray’s the Classics takes reservations. Request a table in one of the two back dining rooms rather than in the drafty bar and annex. Don’t dwell on starters or desserts, but revel in the well-seasoned, well-aged prime steaks and deftly done sides.

Service: ••

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 Petworth.