Ray’s the Steaks Expands with ‘Retro Ray’s’

by ARLnow.com January 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm 18,454 55 Comments

One of Arlington’s busiest restaurants is expanding.

Ray’s the Steaks in Courthouse (2300 Wilson Blvd) has added an adjacent bistro dining area called “Retro Ray’s.” While sharing a kitchen with the larger Ray’s, the new bistro will be operated as a separate entity. It will not take phone reservations — opting instead to only serve walk-in patrons — and will only be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

The menu for Retro Ray’s looks very much like that of Ray’s the Steaks. In fact, it is the Ray’s the Steaks menu — from 2005. The offerings and the prices match that of the old 1725 Wilson Boulevard Ray’s the Steaks, circa 2005, we’re told. That means your average steak will be about $3 cheaper than the same steak next door.

Manager Jon Macy says the 50-seat Retro Ray’s is intended primarily to be overflow for the 180-seat Ray’s the Steaks, which is often fully booked with reservations. Ray’s the Steaks books so many phone reservations, in fact, that it takes two employees just to take reservations during the middle of the day, when the restaurant is otherwise closed.

Unlike the current Ray’s, Retro Ray’s has a liquor license and will serve higher-end liquors and cognacs. It will also serve wine, like its neighbor, but the wine list will be shorter and will include a $18-per-bottle house wine in addition to inexpensive by-the-glass options. Retro Ray’s has a small, simple bar with seating for about half a dozen.

Retro Ray’s quietly opened last Thursday and Macy says the eatery has already started attracting sizable dinnertime crowds. He estimated that the restaurant served 150 customers on Saturday of this past weekend. Ray’s the Steaks, meanwhile, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding later this year.

  • AllenB

    Awesome news. More Ray’s in my neighborhood. Love it.

  • hoooos

    Is this the same space that served as the “informal” dining room at Ray’s the Steaks? Or an additional space next door to that? Which would make there 1 “fancy” dining room at RTS, one “less fancy” dining room at RTS, and one dining room at the bistro?

    • other side of the river

      I think it’s next door to that former informal dining room — closer to Wilson Blvd. than Clarendon.

  • jason

    now im confused on how many rays there actually are

    • Clarendon

      I’m starting to think his goal is always keep us guessing.

  • I know Ray’s is all about steaks, and no one does them better, but I hope the new entity will allow more flexibility for non-meat eaters. I used to host meat-eating visitors at Ray’s but eventually tired of having staring at a plate of egg plant or salad all night while my pals oohed and ached over their steaks. My requests for some more serious main course veggie options were typically met with bemused smiles, and I now take guests to the many local bistros who allow for all sorts of customers. Cmon, Ray. Throw us a (veggie) bone!

    • bob

      You’re seriously complaining about a steakhouse not catering to vegetarians?

      • KalashniKEV

        I think it’s a joke?

      • Did I say “catering”? I spoke of options.

    • j

      This is what is wrong with America.

    • D

      Is this a serious comment? haha

    • me

      I make them better in the comfort of my own home.

    • Moo

      Cows eat grass, so they are just living vegetables.

      • CourthouseChris

        Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • drax

      Why are you so determined to get fed at a steakhouse, geebee? Are all your friends rabid meateaters who can’t find anything they like anywhere else? Just keep going to the bistros. You found the solution.

    • billj
    • Choogirl

      I understand this is a steakhouse. It’s also a local restaurant. The owner is an Arlington legend (if I may say so, thanks for the tots) who we can count on to bring great food and atmosphere. Since there are few restaurateurs of note in the area, I count on Mike to bring the goods. I love the steaks but as a person who eats out 3-4 nights a week, variety would be nice. Please give me a nice chicken sandwich or fish for variety. My stomach can only handle so much steak and the cheesy chain restaurants just aren’t my style.

      • bob

        It’s a steakhouse, not a chicken sandwich or fish house. If you don’t want steak, don’t go there. Do you go to Burger King looking for tacos too?

      • Josh S

        This one might be too subtle for ARLnow.

      • Zach

        Ray’s to the Third has many non-beef options, including a chicken sandwich (on the lunch menu, at least).

      • Anon

        There is fish on the menu in the picture. Crab, Shrimp, Scallops and Salmon. Surely that is enough options for you. I love how people complain about something before reading/looking at everything.

  • hmm

    not sure why they don’t use Open Table rather than paying someone on staff to handle reservations…

    • Dum Dum Guy at the Gates of Dawn

      They have to pay Open Table.a subscription fee and a per diner charge, plus set up costs to install the system..

      • hmm

        yes but that’s surely less than having a full time employee answer phones

        • Dum Dum Guy at the Gates of Dawn

          I think the subscription can be between $200 and $300 a month and it is $1 per diner if they book through the Open Table website. The story above says Ray’s has 180 seats, which probably turn over at least once a night. I think it is cheaper to hire two people to answer the phone.

          • KalashniKEV

            And better….

          • drax


          • Bluemonter

            If you fill every seat without open tables, why bother with the hastle.

  • New liquor license, eh? Any need for a little single-malt scotch whisky consulting? I would love to help get your bar a proper selection to match the cuisine!

    I was in another restaurant a while back and ran into the Jon Macy mentioned. Very cool guy that jumped through hoops so that we had a great experience. Give that guy a raise if you haven’t already!

  • Methinks Ray’s boasts of more phone traffic than reality delivers. Kind of like stoking long lines outside Mister Day’s just to look hip.

    It’s 100% impossible that they need two people to manage continuous phone calls mid-day for evening diners, unless they are a vendor for Nationals Ballpark. Which they aren’t.

  • PhilipDC

    Is this what was going to be the wine place, Ray’s The Glass, I think?

    • Burger Slinger

      Yep, that plan was shelved a while ago to make way for this. If you want to play a fun game, next time you see Michael Landrum, ask him about Ray’s the Catch…

  • Arlingtoon

    Too bad he couldn’t have purchased those “important” historical structures up in Clarendon — could have called it “Ray’s the Landmark.”

  • CEW

    “Ray’s the Confusion” anyone?

    • drax

      Ray’s the Impulsiveness Level.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Rays the Price.

        These steaks are so cheap, its awesome!

  • b0rk

    Am I the only one that feels like Ray’s has an identity crisis going on? It seems like new versions pop up a few times a year, some fading away quickly.

    • Justin

      Dude’s ego will not tolerate being out of the food news for more than a couple months.

      • AllenB

        I don’t see it as ego – I see it as someone who is passionate about providing great food at great prices and he’s not afraid to take a few risks. And he quickly adapts when something isn’t working out.

        We should have more restaurateurs like him.

        • Lou

          I disagree. Plenty of successful (and better restaurants) get by without having to resort to what he does. His approach of constant rebranding is unique to this area as far as I can tell. Ergo, ego. Or maybe just a failure of his ego over his id.

          • AllenB

            Rebranding/uniqueness=ego? First time I’ve ever seen someone try to make an equation like that work. Only problem is, it doesn’t.

          • Lou

            There’s really nothing to debate here so I’m not wasting any more time parsing opinions. I think you are reacting to the pejorative meaning of ego, when in fact most accepted study would support that we all have egos that are responsible for most of what we do, good and bad. So in fact, his ego is responsible for his style.

          • AllenB

            The original quote used the pejorative meaning. If you think it’s a positive, great.

          • Lou

            I think it’s a little bit of ego, a little bit of ADHD. 🙂

          • AllenB

            That kind of ego is great. Steve Jobs had a huge ego and always wanted to make things better and was never satisfied. And it was to the good of us all.

          • Lou

            They definitely attract the same kind of cult-ish following, apparently.

      • info781

        Uncalled for. Michael is a great guy. Let’s celebrate his spirit of creativity.

      • OX4

        “Ego” means opening a new restaurant every month and scribbling its name on a piece of paper that’s taped to the front window. Kind of reminds me of Mike Mills of the late great REM when he told a reporter, at this point we could put out any kind of song we wanted and people would buy it. Unfortunately for Landrum, Mike Mills was lamenting his situation. Landrum seems to revel in it.

    • Josh S

      I suspect the public will lose interest soon.

  • Michael Landrum

    Sorry GeeBee–
    Every time I try to do a vegetarian dish this guy shows up:


    Soon as I learn how to keep him away, I’ll try to do better.

    –Michael Landrum

    • If you don’t want to include vegetarians, cool. That’s free enterprise. Just thought I’d share the experience of one former customer who, when a meat-eater, would bring groups of 4-8 to Ray’s, but – now a vegetarian faced with few options beyond a plate of aubergine – doesn’t. Just relating a fact, not a call to arms in some culture war. My own family owned one of the biggest steak restaurants in Virginia at one time. We liked to hear from customers. Nothing more sinister than that.

      • Michael Landrum


        Apologies again for the perceived offensive or flippant attitude. No one in a non-chef-driven, non-seasonally-focused restaurant takes vegetarians more seriously and views their difficulties in dining out more sympathetically than we do.

        But in a steakhouse, even one as neighborhood-based as Ray’s, I can’t do more than one pure vegetarian (non-pescatarian) entree. Honestly, I have tried.

        Believe it or not, I get many, many, more complaints–and angrier ones at that–from people who are outraged we don’t carry chicken. But nonetheless, I side with the vegetarians to whatever extent I am able, however inadequately that may be to some.

        That being said, I only meant to share with you the joy, delight, humor and laughter of Morgan Freeman as a singing vegetarian vampire with Shaft sideburns from the Electric Company in 1971.

        You may be fortunate enough to be too young to have lived through this, but the Electric Company (well, maybe mostly the glorious Rita Moreno) is the only thing that kept me alive in between repeated, forced listenings to “Free To Be You and Me” (“William Plays With Dolls”, sung by Alan Alda??? “My Dog The Plumber” by Dick Cavett??? Where was CPS? A sturdy piece of rope?)

        If you can think of anything funnier than Vincent the Vegetable Vampire, please let me know, I really could use a laugh.

        Maybe humor and sympathy don’t translate well in the comments section of Arlington Now, but I really do care about losing your business.

        –Michael Landrum

        • Tabs

          That’s brilliant. I didn’t watch much Electric Company. I think mom thought it was too psychedelic.

    • Hahaha

      That’s awesome. Keep it up, I love the food, I love the change every so often, and I love that you care enough to come on here and keep up on people’s thoughts! 🙂


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