Ray's empire expands, big time
In a whopper of an announcement today, Michael Landrum revealed plans to expand his brand to include a wine bar, a larger space for his popular burger operation and a burger joint featuring wild game. The busy restaurateur, 44, also shared updates with me on his long-planned seafood venue in Arlington and a project in Northeast Washington.
Ray's: The Glass, A Personal Wine Bar with Mark Slater is Landrum's vote of confidence in his wine director, who left the lofty Michel Richard Citronelle earlier this year to join Ray's the Steaks, the trail-blazing meat market in Arlington.
Expected to open in mid-January in the same building as Ray's the Steaks, Ray's: The Glass addresses the question Slater says many of those customers ask: "Where's the bar?" The 60-seat Glass will share Steaks' kitchen and offer a chance for Slater to "do things I couldn't possibly do" at the "insanely busy" steakhouse, which set a record by feeding 735 customers on a recent Saturday.
Glass, for instance, will feature an ever-changing selection of wine (including flights), along with classes, one-on-one consultations and tasting dinners with more elaborate food than is currently offered at Ray's the Steaks. "I couldn't have been more thrilled than when [Landrum] proposed the idea" over the summer, says Slater, who will continue to watch over the larger restaurant.
On the sandwich front, Ray's Hell-Burger is relocating this spring from 1725 Wilson Blvd. into larger digs at 1650 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington. Landrum says the newly acquired 4,000 square-foot space solves the current problems of "over-crowded [and] over-stressed facilities." The move will also allow him to beef up Hell-Burger's menu with beer and wine, milkshakes and sides such as fries and onion rings. The long-promised Ray's: The Catch, Landrum's fish house idea, will take the place vacated by Hell-Burger around the same time.
Joining Glass next month will be Ray's: The Game in the original, "pre-Obama" home for Hell-Burger (1713 Wilson Blvd.), with cooks grilling burgers made from custom-ground venison, wild boar, elk, antelope, wild duck and ostrich. Why game? "No one else is doing it," says Landrum, who sees the exotic burgers as "a great way to expand the repertoire."
Ray's: The Steaks at East River (3905 Dix St. NE), which is nearing completion, is also slated for January. The menu there will be similar to that of Ray's the Steaks, with one notable twist, says Landrum: "I'm putting two things that people really, really, really love by themselves, together."
That's all he cares to say about the combination now, except for his desire that it become the "definitive dish of D.C."
Half-smokes, you've been warned.
-- Tom Sietsema
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