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‘Steak and Cheese’ Now Served in Old Ray’s Hell Burger Too Space

by ARLnow.com November 2, 2011 at 1:44 pm 17,682 123 Comments

(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Michael Landrum opened his latest “Ray’s” restaurant today. Just don’t call it a “cheesesteak” place.

The still-unnamed restaurant currently serves but one main dish: the “steak and cheese.” A sign next to the cash-only ordering station sums up the difference.

WARNING: We absolutely do not serve ‘Philly’ or anything ‘cheesesteaks!!!’ We do not claim or attempt to be anyone’s idea of ‘authentic,” the sign reads.

Located at 1713 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, in the former Ray’s Hell Burger Too space, the restaurant interior and furnishings are little changed from what it looked like when ‘Too’ closed less than a month ago. What is new is the menu.

The eatery — we’ll unofficially call it Ray’s Steak and Cheese — serves a $10.99 steak and cheese sandwich made with a half-pound of ribeye and top sirloin steak (the same steaks used in Ray’s the Steaks in Courthouse) between a hearty, custom-made roll from Lyon Bakery. By default, the sandwich comes with American and Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. Green and red peppers, sauteed mushrooms and charred jalapenos are also available, for 50 cents each.

Landrum says a vegetarian sandwich — the exact ingredients haven’t been decided yet — will be added to the menu tomorrow (Thursday). Otherwise, the only other food item on the menu is a $2.00 side order of tater tots. The drink menu consists of sodas (Coke products plus boutique sodas like Ale 81 and Cheerwine), water, iced tea and beer.

As for the name, Landrum says he’s not sure what the restaurant will eventually be called.

“I haven’t really thought about it yet, to be honest,” he said today, after taking the Ray’s Hell Burger Too sign down from the front window. In its place, Landrum taped a printer paper-sized sign to the door, with “STEAK AND CHEESE HERE! NOW OPEN” written in Sharpee.

Already, Landrum has won a fan, in the form of the first paying customer who randomly wandered in around lunchtime today.

“Best steak and cheese I’ve ever had,” the man said, on his way out the door.

The restaurant is expected be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

  • Josh S

    Drool….

  • DarkHeart

    In the absence of a nearby Sonic, thankfully we now have a place to get tater tots, the greatest thing that can be made from a potato.

    • MC 703

      Galaxy Hut has amazing tots

      • Z

        Any tots are pretty good. Jay’s are great too.

  • uh

    This owner sounds like a whack job.

    • To be fair, the tone might not come across properly from the quote. In conversation, Landrum insists that he doesn’t want discussion about the restaurant to revolve around whether it serves an “authentic” cheesesteak. Instead, he wants the ‘steak and cheese’ to be a creation of its own.

    • Lala

      Well he must be doing something right b/c his restaurants are all extremely successful.

      • Steve

        They’re successful because Obama has been twice.

        • meh..

          they were pretty successful waaaay before anyone even knew what/who an Obama was…..

          • Aaron

            Yep. Being ignorant though is no reason to forego saying something on the internet as if it were fact though.

        • Lala

          You have no idea what you are talking about. Ray’s the Steaks was on a wait list most nights with a line out in front of people waiting just to get a table. This was years before Obama showed up.

    • Chris M.

      Insanity breads genius, and, in this case, genius = really good food.

    • D

      Don’t Hate

  • j

    Landrum needs to get over himself.

  • Swag

    Thank god it’s $10.99 and not $11.00. Cause that would just be too much.

    • jack

      To be fair, the sandwich is three-feet tall.

    • FunnyMunny

      Have you been to any Ray’s? The portions are HUGE, Tiny E! My wife and I always split a main course, be it steak, burger, whatever. To us it makes getting great food a bargain. Of course, you couldn’t eat there every day, unless you ran there and back from, say, Loudon County.

  • AllenB

    Wow, that looks delicious. I’m there.

  • PHLTransplant

    I am more excited about the tater tots than the sandwich. he should drop the sandwich and just sell tots with toppings.

  • Steve

    I’ve never been to Ray’s Hellburger. Can you do takeout from the one still by Pho 75 or is it eat in only?

    • Aaron

      The one between Pho and Guajillo is the counter-service Ray’s that is conducive to carry-out. The one that closed (Hellburger Too) was the one with waitress service.

  • ArLater

    Im so glad the owner is really blazing his own trail by refusing to dub his sandwichs cheesesteaks and call them ‘steak and cheese.’

    The originality alone is just leaving me with such a desire to come discover what is a steak and cheese.

  • Also worth noting: there are a number of free, help-yourself toppings available, including mustard, ketchup, A1 steak sauce, Tobasco and mayo.

    • Greedy

      Those aren’t toppings, those are condiments.

      • Chris

        I put my condiments on top… sooo….. toppings.

        Just because it’s one thing doesn’t make it not another. False dichotomy.

    • Clarendude

      Needs a big jar of pickled cherry hot peppers, or would that be too Philly ?

      • Tabby

        Wit.

        • Josh S

          Woot?

  • Pingback: » Ray’s Hell Burger Too Closes Its Doors | Burger Days()

  • Wow

    $11 for a sandwich?

    • Steve

      It has .5 lbs of meat on it. Should call the place Ray’s ObesitySteakandCheese

      • Wow

        So will they let you order one and then share it with someone else, who orders nothing? Because I’d rather pay $5.50 for a reasonably sized sandwich than $11 for a massive one I can only eat if I gorge myself like a python.

        • Flying Spaghetti Monster

          I’m not sure they can/would prevent you from sharing… “No Sharing!!!”

        • R. Griffon

          +1

          It’d be one thing if you could take the other half home with you (and I supposed you technically could), but sandwiches like that are rarely any good re-heated.

      • Novanglus

        >It has .5 lbs of meat on it. Should call the place Ray’s ObesitySteakandCheese

        or “Ray’s your Blood Pressure”

        • arlgirl

          +1

        • FunnyMunny

          OK, I love that name, you win

          • Tabby

            Or Ray’s LDL.

        • Lane Mittendorf

          Whatever it’s called, it was tasty and yummy. AND YES, you CAN share. You have that choice. This is not a socialist country… though sometimes people do try to make it so…

    • Aaron

      $500k for a 1,000 square foot condo?!?!?

      • Andrew

        touche

      • CW

        Where can I get one of those? That’s a steal around here.

        • Southeast Jerome

          wait til austerity and DC area will get its correction

          • AllenB

            Not coming any time soon, if at all.

          • JB

            One way or another it’s coming.

            The DC area thinks it can just steal more cash from the rest of the country. Those days are over.

          • AllenB

            LOL… good luck with that.

          • R. Griffon

            Not so. Just wait until the “super committee” comes back with their recommendations. It’s gonna hurt.

            Heck, at the place where I work the gov’t is agressively hacking and slashing everything it can, and moving all work over to a new contract vehicle with TERRIBLE rates. Most people have to take about a 30% pay cut or look for a new job. Once that starts happening everywhere it’s gonna get ugly.

            And even if that never happens, interest rates have to come up from these historic lows sooner or later. You seriously think 4 1/2% rates are sustainable? Once they go up monthly payments will skyrocket, and prices will have to come down to compensate.

          • AllenB

            Interest rates will affect the real estate across the country, not just here.

            As for the supercommittee, they’re going to slow the rate of growth of government but just watch, there will be no layoffs of existing employees.

            Time to de-dramatize this.

  • zzzzz

    Well my first thought on reading the headline was how nice it would be to get a real Philly cheesesteak in Arlington. So I understand why he’s making the distinction. Now I know that no one will be asking “You want whiz on that?”

    BTW the article didn’t specify — is it served with cheddar? I’m guessing based on the photo…

    • Jeff

      American and provolone cheese apparently.

      I’ll be checking this out this weekend.

    • Swag

      Looks like yellow american and swiss

      • DarkHeart

        I don’t see any holes, can’t be swiss.

        • CW

          There’s half a big hole right in the foreground. The melting characteristics (or lack thereof) are consistent with swiss.

          • CW

            But another poster mentions provolone, so I will defer to that. Must have not been on the grill very long.

    • drax

      Nobody should be asking “you want whiz on that,” because whiz sucks.

      These cheesesteaks sound better than Philly.

      • ps

        Maybe he doesn’t want to be associated with Philly because Philly is a god awful place and the people from there are trash. Maybe??

        • Tabby

          Eat my donut hole.

          • Tabby

            To be clear, I’m kidding. We don’t really do donuts in Philadelphia.

            Dat cheesesteak up theres looks pretty good though, yo.

  • pg

    They serve american and provolone as of today. You never know with Landrum though, the place could be an ice cream shop tomorrow.

  • DarkHeart

    Ale-8-1? What are those other regional soft drinks in pic 8 of 9?

  • CW

    Looks good to me! I like the ones at Mario’s, but this one is obviously made with higher-end ingredients.

    I am really wondering if Mr. Landrum can cook anything other than beef though?

    • LP

      Check out Ray’s to the Third (across the street) – lots of seafood on the menu…or just read the review on ARLNow which mentions it as well.

      • CW

        I thought Ray’s to the third was a steak frites place? The crab bisque from RTS was mentioned. Of course Mr. Landrum never posts his menus, so it’s difficult to ever know without visiting the restaurant.

    • Aaron

      The fried chicken that was at Ray’s East and is now at Ray’s to the Third is worth killing for.

      • DarkHeart

        Maybe he will open a fried chicken and pancake place next.

        • Southeast Jerome

          isnt it supposed to be friend chicken and waffles?

          • Virginia^2

            Michael Landrum does not claim or attempt to be anyone’s idea of fried chicken and waffles.

  • SamsontheCat

    What about the name though?

    Ray’s the Steaks…and Cheese could work I guess, but I’d suggest Ray’s Your Cholesterol

  • lost

    Not everything needs to be upscale, but Landrum and his ever-changing paper signs are starting to annoy me.

    • OX4

      I second that. I don’t care who owns the restaraunt, I’m not eating at a place that has “food here” scribbled on a piece of paper with a damn sharpie.

      • FoodE

        Good. More room for the rest of us.

      • JB

        No problem. Your kind isn’t wanted there.

        • OX4

          My “kind”? I’ve been going to Ray’s the Steaks and Hellburger much longer than most of the hip Obama-followers around here have. But Landrum’s ego and general contempt for customers is eventually going to get the best of him.

  • JamesE

    I’m too lazy to travel to Rosslyn for food

    • Steve

      Do what I do, get off at Rosslyn Metro, stop by (for me, Pho 75) get it to go, and walk home.

  • Chris (no not that one)

    Is there any way for me to contact him and ask very nicely for him to put a gourmet (or 2) grilled cheese on the menu. Artisan bread with a nice sharp Vermont or NY cheddar. Num. Why do people insist on selling American on white bread as a grilled cheese?

    • Novanglus

      >>grilled cheese on the menu. Artisan bread with a nice sharp Vermont or NY cheddar.

      Try Earl’s in Courthouse or Rabbit in Clarendon.

    • Don Ager

      “Why do people insist on selling American on white bread as a grilled cheese?”

      Hummm…because American on white bread IS the traditional grilled cheese. And it tasts dang good, especially with a cup of tomato soup to dip it in.

      Nothing wrong with going upscale by using artisanal cheeses and breads or even adding extras but they are all based on the great American comfort original of American on White Bread.

  • Steve

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=us-glossed-over-cancer-concerns

    Everyone might as well eat up, if you fly a lot, you’re going to be getting cancer anyways.

  • JimPB

    Vegetarian sandwich — Yea.

  • How About This?

    They should open a Hooters competitor and call it “Ray’s The Skirt.” And to top it off, they could serve skirt steak!

    • j

      Or “Hike your Skirt”, the sports bar version.

    • Novanglus

      Skirt Steak: That would be fajitas, pho, and cheap street-cart-quality Philly steaks, right? So he should just merge with Guarapo and Pho 75 and give it that name.

      Last time I suggested that, I added that he could take over the whole building — call the coffee shop “Ray’s: The Alert”, the real estate place “Ray’s: Your Roof”, and the French bistro “Ray’s-pondez SVP”.

  • GetMeOutofHere

    Went there for lunch today, not even realizing it was open. Great sandwich, solid tots. I have to say there was one spot on mine where the meat was almost raw. Ate around it. I’m sure just a first-day problem.

    Good to know they are adding more to the menu. I definitely approve of the earlier poster’s suggestion about a simple grilled cheese.

  • Steve

    When is Ray going to come up with his own rival to American Tap Room? i have a name for it already, Ray’s Your Glass.

    • Novanglus

      I think he already has a takeout wine service with that name.

  • Michael Landrum

    My apologies for the seeming pretentiousness, impermanence and inconvenience in the lack of signage and frequently changing concepts of the different Ray’s restaurants.

    The Colonial Village Shopping Center, while part of an incredibly vibrant and creative community, was constructed in 1936 and being 75 years old has serious infrastructure issues and unreliable utilities and power service–which makes it a perfect location for incubating and evolving ideas and concepts, but does not provide for a reasonably assured long-term location into which invest and risk a business’s entire future.

    On the plus side, this approach give those who already dislike me personally and/or the work we do at Ray’s a ready and easy reason to increase and clarify that dislike.

    CW, you pretty much have hit the nail on the head. I am not really much of a chef–I don’t know all that much outside of beef and steaks. I pretty much just work on ways to satisfy existing demand by diversifying across different, but related, product lines and price points within my limited field of competency.

    Trust me, no one will be happier than I when no one has to hear about me opening new restaurants or at all.

    • CW

      If I could know one thing very well, I wish it could be beef and steaks too!

    • Andrew

      awesome

    • Mike

      Whatever you do next, I hope it involves breakfast sandwiches on the weekend. There isn’t one decent place to get a breakfast sandwich on the weekends in Rosslyn/Courthouse. And don’t say Brooklyn Bagel – that place is awful.

      • Ooo…

        Steak and eggs sandwich… could fit into this new thing you’ve got going pretty well I bet. πŸ™‚

    • Steve

      You should open a Doener shop. I miss those from germany badly.

      • JamesE

        Yes, and use the space in Ballston where Ruby Tuesday use to be.

    • Garden City

      I’ll miss the table service, but I’m glad to see the tater tots. Every time I eat at either Hellburger location, I always mention that I’d really like to see tater tots on the menu. Hellburger does turn out the best burger I’ve ever had.

    • Rosslyn Bob

      Michael Landrum keep up the good work. We are happy to have you in the neighborhood. It is pretty obvious you put a lot of effort into these places and you care that the customer is getting top notch food. Whether it is the fancier Rays the Steaks or the more basic Rays Hell Burger my dining experiences have been memorable because the food is that good.

      And, for the record you make killer milk shakes at Ray’s to the Third. Best I have ever had.

      Thank you.

      As far as the negative people out there, you are really missing out on some great dining experiences.

      I can’t wait to try the steak and cheese sandwich.

    • RoachVA141

      Do you know how late you’ll be open this evening?

    • Arlingtonian

      Well Michael, I adore your food and eateries and happen to think you are a breath of fresh air. You know how to make good eats and you are always trying out new things. Never go away please.

    • AllenB

      Mr Landrum, keep doing exactly what you’re doing. We love your restaurants here in Arlington. Ignore the few haters on here – the rest of the world does… that’s probably why they’re so cranky.

      • RosRes

        +1

    • nodice

      If it’s an incubator and the menu may be added to….call it Ray’s the Question! Stopped by tonight just to step in and smell the deliciousness. The place was packed! I do agree that all the Ray’s storefronts look much better lately without so much signage in the windows. Don’t mind the temporary signage once you’re inside though.

    • Lane Mittendorf

      I have to say, after ARLnow posted that you had opened the Steak ‘n’ Cheese restaurant, my boyfriend and I had to come check you out with baby in tow. WE very much enjoyed the sandwich – and I agree that if you had to specialize, beef and steaks is not a bad thing. As a business man, I cannot fault you at all for applying this formula – it works! No great American should object and in these times of economic hardship, we need people like you to come up with these ideas – too many pluses to list: creates industry, economy in Arlington, adds “flavor” to the community, and gastronomic variety to the area. We need to encourage you and others who have that drive to do what you do best. I am sure a lot of the posters here would object to what seems like an ass-kissing – I don’t care. I can say what I want, I am Canadian!

  • Smoke_Jaguar4

    The vegetarian version will be made with chicken πŸ™‚

  • Lois Baron

    Fine with me if Lanham sticks with what he knows & does really really really well.

    I’m clueless about his opening more restaurants/changing them around. I worry that it’s because he’s not getting rich off what he’s already doing. That would be sad. Because creative people who are good at what they do SHOULD get rich, but usually don’t.

    Mostly I want him to hire my college freshman son so my son could learn to do something really really well involving food.

    • Tabby

      Lanham = Landrum

      Shouldn’t a college freshman be focusing on his studies? The restaurant business can be exhausting and all-encompassing.

      Maybe you should stop hovering.

  • b-crip

    Lame, yuppy nonsense. Broiler steak and cheese FTW.

  • it was delicious. We were among the last customers to get fed tonight. Consider me impressed.

  • cahill22201

    The whole Ray’s concept is such a treat. I bump into Mike on the street all the time and have lovely chats. I see the wine guys from Ray’s around the hood a fair amount too. Feels great to have a local connection to independent restaurants.

    Mike et al: if you are reading this, please ignore the high density of d-bags this blog has attracted. I actually cannot believe some of the nonsense on here. I always feel so much better about myself after reading posts from some folks.

  • SomeGuy

    The sell for me was always that Ray’s (the Steaks) offered a great VALUE, because you could get a very good (not amazing, but definitely good) steak at a reasonable price. But the recent price increase at Hell Burger and now the $10.99 price tag on a steak sandwich are really changing the value proposition for the Ray’s group as a whole.

    I haven’t been to Ray’s the Steaks lately, so I can’t say if they’re raising prices there. But if they are, that’ll lose any remaining luster for me too.

    • CW

      I don’t know if it’s “really changing the value proposition”. My feeling is that he probably held out for a long time – the prices at RHB hadn’t changed in the more than 2 years I’d been going. Meat prices have gone up – a consumer can’t find any contiguous cut of beef for less than $5 a pound even at costco or the like. And he uses good cuts – sirloin is relatively cheap but ribeye is not at all. I realize he takes a link off the distribution change and has bulk purchasing power, but still the cost of the value-add is nontrivial, especially given the location and cost of rent.

      • SomeGuy

        By my math, an increase in price for the same sandwich changes the value for me.

        • CW

          All I was saying is that he may simply have been holding his prices steady (and shrinking his margins) while the cost of ingredients went up around him, until the point where he finally had to give in. IF (and I am suspecting but still speculating) this is the case, then of course the value proposition changes, but it also means that your expectations were predicated upon a now-outdated and unsustainable conception of that value.

          • j

            Relax. It’s just a sandwich.

          • CW

            The man owns a half-dozen or so restaurants in a very crowded and competitive market space. Pricing decisions are a big deal, and some of us find this interesting. You can go back to playing with your blocks now!

          • SomeGuy

            Yes, I know beef prices have gone up. So your point about shrinking margins was not lost on me even when I inferred it from your previous post.

            However, Rhodeside is half a block away, and I can get a decent burger WITH fries for about the same $10 that Hell Burger charges for a burger by itself. There are differences in the burger, and of course the president didn’t choose to eat at Rhodeside, but both burgers taste pretty good to me. So if I’m in that neighborhood, I might just choose to call in a Burger+Fries for $10 (on credit card) at Rhodeside instead of a burger by itself (cash only) with a required 15 minutes of standing around while they prepare it at Hell Burger for the same price (followed by me boxing it up myself).

            That’s what I mean about changing the equation for me. Not hating on Ray’s. Just explaining what figures into my calculus.

          • CW

            Gotcha. I’m no stranger to going after value (1/2 price burger lineup: Whitlow’s Monday, SK’s Tuesday, 11th St. Lounge Wednesday) but for the taste you just can’t beat Ray’s.

  • Charles

    They forgot one: “We absolutely do not provide information about the calories and fat in our stuff. We’d never sell anything if we told customers what they are actually stuffing into their obese mouths.”

    Jeeee-zuz.

  • Tra to the Wick

    Yo mike,
    Can I play at your restarunt?

  • Michael Landrum

    CW, once again, your speculation/intuition proves to be pretty much correct. Since the crisis began in 2008 I have held prices firm despite rapidly increasing food costs in order to keep costs (artificially) low for consumers in these difficult times–although I have recently added portion options in response to guest feedback (more about portion size than price, really) and to allow for more price-point options.

    SomeGuy, I appreciate your value concerns. At Hell-Burger, you can now get the over a third of a pound option for only $5.99 and add fries for a total of $7.99. At Ray’s to the Third, you can get The Single (5 ounces) WITH fries for $5.99, INCLUDING table (waiter) service and the option to pay with credit card. (The Double, with fries is $9.99). At night, a 12 ounce Top Sirloin with fries and salad will set you back all of $19.99. Granted, the over-sized Hell-Burger was much-belatedly brought more into line with it’s actual cost at 9.99, but that is still really cheap for what it is, and was only ever meant as an occasional treat or even as a sort of gimmick almost.

    As for Ray’s The Steaks, I actually lowered the prices there when we moved to the larger location over three years ago–although, with the larger and broader-based clientele, we did add a few higher priced items (along with a few cheaper selections too).

    Additionally (and for many diners, most significantly, bottom line-wise), beginning in 2008 we decreased our actual wine mark-up percentages across the board AND added more lower-priced, value-driven selections–a philosophy which can be found in the wine program at Ray’s to the Third even more strikingly.

    As for the $10.99 Half Pound Steak and Cheese, it too is meant only as an occasional treat, not an everyday product, and is the least amount I can possibly charge without resorting to serving meager portions of processed, sub-standard product made from inferior cuts of industrial grade meat. (I believe Jerry’s and Boli’s charge 6.99 for 4 ounces of meat and 9.99 for 6 ounces–but as has been demonstrated, value can be both relative and absolute).

    As a final note, I only eat their burger occasionally, but I love Rhodeside’s Rueben and get one pretty much at least once a week.

    • You pay attention and speak clearly….

      You care about your business and your fan base and from what little I’ve only seen of you even care enough to be on here and not be defensive like some business owners have been (more interested in simply shedding light on your business).

      When I grow up, I want to be you. πŸ™‚

      Go Beef!

  • Jessica

    Have any Phila cheesesteak aficionados tried one yet? I’d be curious how they compare.

  • Austin

    Was in there last night and the steak and cheese was fantastic. Well worth the occasional splurge. Also had a nice brief chat with the owner, who seemed like a very decent guy.

    Very glad his Burger/Steak empire is based in Arlington. We’re lucky to have him!

  • Kyle

    Just came back from Ray’s Steak ‘n Cheese and its a winner.

    Typical Ray’s fashion I got there by 11am grabbed my food and a seat and within 20 mins it was already starting to get packed.

    Nice and easy is the best part about this place.

    The cult following continues

  • ARlgirl

    After reading the reviews on this website and hearing the buzz around town, I decided to try this place out…only to be disappointed. I have never been to any of the other Ray’s _____, but based off my experience at “Steak and Cheese”, I would never try them. WAY overpriced for a sandwich. I can get the same meal in Philly for $10 cheaper (based on 2 people). The meat was rare and the bread/mushrooms were burnt. Hell of a combo! The only part that I enjoyed was the diet coke.

Γ—

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