Retro Ray’s at Ray’s The Steaks, Courthouse, VA

(See the December 31, 2010 Review of Ray’s The Steaks, Courthouse here.)

I went to Retro Ray’s for the very first time last night, and since the drawing card of this new space – which is really just a “third” dining room in the main Ray’s The Steaks location – is “retro pricing,” I decided to supplement our meat cravings with a little experiment.

Since my young dining companion and I usually split everything we order anyway, we decided to get 1) the cheapest steak on the menu, and 2) the most expensive steak on the menu to see how they compared 1) with each other, and 2) with other comparable steaks in the DC area.

The Bistro Special ($23.99) is a limited three-course menu (appetizer, main course, dessert), available only at Retro Ray’s, and only on Sunday through Thursday evenings. Matt chose a cup of Sherried Crab Bisque, a Hanger Steak Au Poivre, medium-rare, seared with black peppercorns, with a port-wine peppercorn cream, and a slice of Key Lime Pie. As with all the Ray’s steaks, this comes with a little bar-snack of spiced cashews, homemade focaccia-style bread, and family-style mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

I didn’t notice the second page on the menu we received (which may have been on the back), but the one on the internet shows the Hanger Steak Au Poivre, by itself, for $16.99. If this is the case, it would be exactly what’s described in the above paragraph, minus the Sherried Crab Bisque and Key Lime Pie, for $7.00 less.

That was the low end; Ray’s The Steaks now offers several cuts that have broken the $40 barrier, and I ordered the (tied for) most expensive steak on the menu (you also get to choose from the regular Ray’s The Steaks menu at Retro Ray’s), The Delmonico ($40.99), medium-rare, a “Bone-In Ribeye (The Most Famous Steak Of All)” from the “Dry Aged Cuts” section which touts its six different steaks as having “Peerless Flavor and Texture, For the True Connoisseur, Aged In House 45 Days, Butchered and Hand-Trimmed Daily.” Other than the soup and dessert, my order got me all the other items that Matt received: nuts, bread, potatoes, spinach, plus a few grilled onions and a little tub of horseradish cream sauce.

Note also that Ray’s now features several “Steaks For Two” that run as high as $68.99. The legendary “Cowboy Cut” remains at $36.99, but I have to wonder whether that cut has shrunk because some of the ones that I’ve had in past years were indeed sized for two people. I suspect the Cowboy Cut is a lot like (or identical to) my Delmonico, which was quite large, with the difference being that it’s not dry-aged.

The steaks arrived, Matt proffered me a goodly wedge of his Hanger Steak, I cut him off a hunk of my Delmonico, and the meat-fest began.

Let me cut right to the chase: the steaks here are (still) fantastic. And the really good news is that they were both fantastic – that hanger steak, at $16.99 (assuming you can get it for that) is one of the most amazing deals in town considering it comes with potatoes and spinach. Getting this au poivre is a great way to order it, and the sauce, simple though it may have been, worked beautifully with the black peppercorn crust. We both agreed my Delmonico was better, and it was also bigger, but it wasn’t *so* much better that you should feel forced to drop $40+ here when you can get a fine steak dinner for $17 (*).

For our beverages, Matt got a Diet Black Cherry Cheerwine ($2.50) while I got a temptingly priced glass of 2010 Radio Boca Tempranillo ($5.00 for a generous pour) from Valencia, Spain. Poured from a 750 ml bottle, this wine was a little bit “meh” on the first sip, but all it took was one spiced nut, and all unpleasantries quickly resolved – it goes just fine with the food. Five dollars for a glass this large is such an attractive deal that I ordered a second glass – two glasses of wine with a steak dinner is nothing for me, but these pours are large enough (probably a good five ounces) that I didn’t even finish my second glass.

As hard as it is to imagine, all of this food cost us a total, with tax, and a 20% pre-tax tip, that was still in the two-digit price range, but not by much: it was $99.95, and the check was made all the more sweet by two complimentary pieces of Tiger Butter.

And as far as comparing these steaks with comparable steakhouses in the DC area, well, I’d love to, but Ray’s is the only place where I can afford to do the comparison. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you won’t find a better hanger steak for $16.99 than what we had last night, and you probably won’t find a better steak than my Delmonico at any price.

(*) For a 6:15 AM breakfast, on his way to school this morning, Matt happily cross-tasted the sizable remnants of both steaks in the car, which had been packaged up with some extra mashed potatoes, and microwaved for 60 seconds, and preferred the hanger steak.

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