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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Sun–Thu 5:00pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:00pm–11:00pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

Arlington, VA
2300 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA
(703) 841-7297
Ray’s the Steaks
A steak house where the focus is on the bull, not the B.S.

Ray’s the Steaks is a quirk of DC dining that is too wonderful to miss. In a city abundant with steakhouses (what is it with politicians and their love for red meat?) created to flaunt shady expense accounts and encourage epically ostentatious meals, Ray’s is a curmudgeonly breath of fresh air. It is uncompromising, self-righteous, and, even if these aren’t the very best steaks in town, absolutely worth it.

Ray’s is unique because of its value proposition: simply put, it will serve you great meat at low cost by cutting overhead from everywhere else. In practice, this means diner-like service, hurried meals, few niceties, and a monastic cell of a dining area, although the new location has dressed things up a little. If ever you’re confused, the menu will defend Ray’s ethos by cheekily reminding you about what you’re paying for. And while the old location only took reservations in person—so that you needed to show up senior-citizen early or arrive in advance to put in your name—you can now saunter in like a civilized person, having called ahead to ensure your spot.

But any rough edges in Ray’s presentation are emphatically smoothed over by the arrival of the meat. Huge cuts of beef are butchered and wet-aged in-house and cooked at properly high temperatures with a careful eye to doneness. Ribeye is inches thick, pillow-soft, and exuding juice, but it’s got enough chew to make your mouth feel like it’s doing something. Horseradish sauce is a weak excuse, but you don’t need it. In fact, we don’t quite get the emphasis on sauce here. None of them—not the weak horseradish, not the boring mushroom, not the rich au poivre, not even the famous-but-distracting diablo—add much. Our other, ahem, beef is that the wet-aged meat doesn’t achieve the funky tang of the city’s best dry-aged steaks. So Ray’s is not quite in their league, and at least on that axis, Bobby Van’s and the Prime Rib are easy winners. We do get more funk from Ray’s hanger steak, however.

It helps that the meat is brilliantly cooked. A guide on the paper menus details temperature, color, and char. Mid-temperatures are allowed and encouraged by the staff. What’s so excellent is the care they take to get it just right. Meat can be blushingly, mooingly rare but warmed through and just cooked enough to lose any toughness. Ray’s makes your meal even easier by supplying skillets of so-so mashed potatoes and better creamed spinach for free.

If you want to go show off your red-blooded manliness in front of your peers, there are many steakhouses in the District that will strive to outdo you. If you want to wine and dine, wheel and deal, and be robbed at the point of a steak knife by the prices, this city will be happy to oblige.

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