With stints at Mortonâ€™s and the Capital Grille, Michael Landrum got to know the scene so well that, when he started his own steakhouse, he undermined the entire bloated concept. Landrumâ€™s original Rayâ€™s the Steaks in Arlington was the anti-Palm: zero ambiance, but affordable, wet-aged cuts of beef.
Landrum has since become a local celebrity. But even as he opened one Rayâ€™s after another, he was constantly planning a project to give back to his community. First, it was going to be part of his Rayâ€™s the Catch concept in Arlington. Then it morphed a stand-alone project in Ward 7: Rayâ€™s the Steaks at East River.
If the original Rayâ€™s was the inverse of a D.C. steakhouse, then the one in East River, Iâ€™d argue, is a true D.C. steakhouseÂâ€”run and managed and fussed over by longtime Washingtonians. You know, the ones marginalized not only by the federal government, but also by the local transients whoâ€™d rather drink battery acid than cross the Anacostia.
â€śI opened a restaurant where I could serve the food that I really love to eat myself, working off the core menus of the other Rayâ€™s restaurants but with a much more down-home, well-seasoned, and easily accessibleâ€”but still uniqueâ€”approach,â€ť says Landrum.
Rayâ€™s the Steaks at East River may be D.C.â€™s first soul-food steakhouse. You wonâ€™t find creamed spinach here. But there are collard greens, mac â€™nâ€™ cheese, and sweet-potato fries. Itâ€™s a steakhouse that serves fried chicken â€”organic, free range chicken thatâ€™s smoked then fried. Itâ€™s a steakhouse that serves a rib-eye for $18.95 and gives you a house salad and two sides. Itâ€™s a steakhouse designed around value and respect, not power. â€śThe exact same portions on our classic cuts are served with prices adjusted downward to allow for as many people from the community to enjoy a great steak as possible,â€ť Landrum tells me.
So whatâ€™s in it for Landrum? Hereâ€™s his grand, and grandiloquent, answer: â€śTo have the pleasure of seeing the incredible potential of those around me explode in an expression of talent, achievement, and accomplishment that otherwise might never be given the opportunity to shine.â€ť
3905 Dix St. NE (202) 396-7297