UPDATE: While we’re on the topic of Landrum, it’s worth noting that he announced a new burger joint opening this week: Ray’s Hell Burger. Hell Burger is in the same strip mall as Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington. Thanks to metrocurean for the heads up. And now, back to your regularly scheduled review..
If you have 15 minutes or so to kill waiting for your table at Ray’s The Classics, consider yourself lucky. The Classics’ experience begins at the bar. The decor of the place delivers on the name promise – black and white, spare, seats covered in faux ostrich skin and speakers that moan anthems from the Rat Pack – I feel like I’ve slipped into my own Mad Men episode. When we walk in, I long to order stiff drinks from the always friendly bar staff and trade sassy quips with strangers, All About Eve-style.
Instead, I belly up for a cocktail and hit up one of my favorite Classics touches: the spicy cashews. On our first visit to the restauarant, a few months after it opened in 2006, Mike and I met at the bar where he found me sipping a manhattan and popping cashews with wide eyes.
“These. Are. Awesome,” I said.
Mike took a bite. “These are good. But you know they are tossed in butter to keep all those spices on them, right?” I had been lamenting my lack of salads in the days leading up to our sure-to-be-gluttonous trip to DC’s latest steakhouse.
I am heartbroken. “No… they don’t have to be! It could be something else!” I turn to the bartender. “Are these tossed with butter?”
“Nope,” he says. I am triumphant! “They make those with duck fat. Pretty good, right?” I am defeated. Still, these fall into the “worth it” category of gluttony.
Once seated, the real steakhouse experience begins. Ray’s the Classics was created as a spin-off from the insanely popular Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington. When it opened, Ray’s the Steaks shook up the DC steakhouse scene by (gasp!) providing good quality cuts in a simple environment at fair prices. The lack of pretension was a breath of fresh air. The Classics turns up the volume with vintage American comfort foods while holding to the same steak philosophy: Chef Landrum offers prime-grade meat that he ages and trims himself.
Over our visits, Mike and I have sampled our way through most of the menu, mostly focusing steak. We’ve each speared a few bites of seafood and fried chicken offerings from our friends and to date everyone has been pleased with their choices. On our most recent trip to the Classic’s, Mike selected the house special, a strip steak with cracked black pepper, crumbled blue cheese and mushrooms in a brandy cream sauce. I opted for simpler fare with a petit filet with a Cajun-spice rub. Entrees come with two sides: mashed potatoes and creamed spinach served family style. We opted to add the macaroni and cheese as well and I’m glad we did. The four cheese on the gemelli pasta were on of the best versions of the dish I’ve had in recent memory. The animated 6 year-old boy at the table across from us must have felt the same; he ordered his father “Give a $1,000 tip, Dad. That’s how good it is!”
Not everything is perfection at the Classics, though. While some are lamenting the changes since opening – no more free valet parking, certain favorite classic dishes have left the menu – some of the day-to-day was a little disappointing as well. On our most recent visit, the creamed spinach was watery and the last bites of my petit filet was overwhelmed by the amount of oil left on to my plate.
All in all, Ray’s the Classics is still a favorite when we’re in the mood for a little comfort food, some great steak and lots of spicy cashews.
Ray’s the Classics
8606 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD