Ray's The Steaks seems to be the default steak house recommendation on this board. I would like to spend a few sentences discussing why it is not so great.
1. The dining experience. Advance reservations are not accepted. Why not? Is this Olive Garden? There is a group oif 50 people standing outside the dining room waiting to get in. That is not my idea of the start of a good dining experience. Then you get to your table, and you are seated within inches of the next party. While many restaurants use bistro style seating, none that I have experienced try to squeeze as many people into as few square feet as this place does. Finally, the waiters are rude and rush guests out of the restaurant as fast as possible, presumably to turn over the table. For the money I am paying, I expect a better dining experience.
2. The food. It's a steak house. You don't need to do that much. Have excellent quality meat, well-butchered and cooked perfectly. Offer good sides to complement the meal. Nobody is expecting Jose Andres-quality innovation. But what they do, they better do well. And I'm sorry, the steaks are just not that great. They aren't bad, but it isn't great meat. And in my experience, the kitchen does not understand what rare means. This wouldn't be a problem if I could find my waiter and point this out to him. But unfortunately, he clearly has too many tables and is trying to turn them over (see Point 1) as fast as he can, so once your meat is down, you won't see him again until the plates are cleared. Meanwhile, the sides, two which come free (a supposed great selling point) are really not that great. Kind of plain actually. They aren't disgusting, but they aren't anything to write home about either.
3. The wine. Wine list here is adequate. It isn't great. But it isn't terrible. In fact, I'd probably say it's mediocre.
4. The prices. Supposedly, people come here because it is a great meal at a reasonable price. Yeah, it's not a bad meal. But this place isn't cheap. Sure you get your 2 sides for free, but you are paying premium prices and a dinner for two with wine is still going to set you back a pretty penny. Steaks are about ten bucks cheaper per cut than Morton's or the Palm. But these aren't Outback Steakhouse prices. You're still dropping $30 bucks on a filet. Sure you can get a hanger steak for less. But you can go to JG steakhouse and get a $25 hanger steak too. If you know what to order, you can eat very well for less money at any restaurant, but overall, while it's cheaper than the big chain steakhouses, it's still pricey.
You aren't going to have a bad meal at Ray's. And if someone invited me along, I would go happily. I like the place in general. But I don't understand the adulation for this place. I just don't believe that the experience, the prices, the food or the wine list merits it as one of the gems of our area.
Ray's The Steaks
2300 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201