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Ray's the Steaks and Retro Ray's (Next Door) - Michael Landrum's Steakhouses in Courthouse

Arlington Courthouse Steakhouse MLRG Inc.

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#1551 DonRocks

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 03:53 PM

Ray’s Hell-Burger, now being served at Ray’s To The Third, may not be getting the massive world recognition it was getting two years ago (think about the ramifications of this: The President of the United States and The President of Russia go there for hamburgers), but it sure seemed to be doing pretty well Monday afternoon, and if you look at the pin-board near the front door ('Where in the world did you come from to get your Hell-Burger?’), there are so many pins on it, from so many places, that I’ll bet Michael Landrum wishes he’d made it ten times larger. 

 

I ordered about as simply as one can possibly order - an Original 10-Ounce Hell-Burger ($10.99), grilled, medium-rare, with nothing on it, no cheese, no side orders, and a glass of ice water.

 

Whatever Michael does to his hamburgers, I hope he never changes it. Essentially a ground up steak on a bun, it’s as good as I remember it being (I haven’t had one in over a year now). I added exactly one shake of salt (someone should start a specialty salt product called The Sheikh of Salt), and a dab of Gulden’s mustard on the plate for the occasional dunk, and that’s it.

 

Beefier than beef, Ray’s Hell-Burger remains arguably my favorite hamburger patty. Bone marrow and persillade is perfect with this sandwich, but that’s now a five-dollar topping. Even what I had, with tax and tip, was about $15.00, and with the bone marrow, it would have been over $20. This is a lot of money, but this is also a lot of burger. Delicious, and maintained in Italic in the Dining Guide.


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#1552 lion

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 12:17 PM

We also were there on Monday for an early dinner, and it was just as good as always. Fairly empty at 5:30, packed as we left close to 7pm.



#1553 collije

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 05:39 PM

Question, has the lofty high burger (talking about the meat pirmarily) quality been maintained since opening in your opinions? I discussed with someone recently that felt it fell off a bit (not the same remnants from steaks as it was in the beginning), their opinion..



#1554 DonRocks

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 08:07 PM

Question, has the lofty high burger (talking about the meat pirmarily) quality been maintained since opening in your opinions? I discussed with someone recently that felt it fell off a bit (not the same remnants from steaks as it was in the beginning), their opinion..

 

Joe, I don’t know. I realize that’s a non-answer, but I’ve never known the quality or type of beef or seasonings used in Hell-Burgers; only that they taste deliciously beefy (always have, still do). This may be the very first time I’ve ever had one plain - I usually get bone marrow and persillade, or sometimes the Vermont cheddar. The first time I ever tried one was with Epoisses, and it was a huge mistake because it was just too much of a good thing, like putting hot fudge on a pizza.

 

I’ve never known where or from whom Michael sources his beef (although I’ve heard Briggs thrown around in the past), or how much of the hamburgers are steak scraps, ground beef, etc. I suspect things have changed over time, as needed, but that’s pure speculation on my part. For all the times I’ve talked with Michael, he’s never really told me what goes into his Hell-Burgers, and he’s been very effective at keeping his secret recipe a secret.

 

A lot of words, without saying very much.


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#1555 JoshNE

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 08:27 PM

I had the original Hell burger a few times, and just last week we headed over to The Third.  It's still a hell of a burger, cooked perfectly (med-rare), with a nice big grind and loose texture.  I think this latest one was a bit undersalted as compared to the ones I remember from the past, but the amount of time in between those visits brings any real comparison into question.



#1556 zoramargolis

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 02:51 AM

I now get the buffalo burger to satisfy burger cravings. It is somewhat smaller and quite a bit less fatty than the regular hellburger, which my digestive system has rebelled against on more than one occasion.

#1557 collije

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 02:03 PM

Thanks, I just recall being in HellBurger in Year 1 and watching the meat being transported and ground there (that was awesome to see). I'm usually going crazy with the toppings too (The Dogcatcher is awesome isn't it?) but have not gotten in some time. Just an excuse for me to do a build your own, more basic version sometime soon.

 

When I visit Rays to the Third I'm usually getting the Steak N Cheesy Nice N Greasy haha.



#1558 DonRocks

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 02:08 PM

Thanks, I just recall being in HellBurger in Year 1 and watching the meat being transported and ground there (that was awesome to see). 

 

Are you talking about Michael himself hand-cutting meat behind the counter? I have never been convinced that this was anything more than show. The sheer numbers of hamburgers sold (sometimes near 1,000 a day) negate the possibility of this being representative.


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#1559 collije

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 03:10 PM

Are you talking about Michael himself hand-cutting meat behind the counter? I have never been convinced that this was anything more than show. The sheer numbers of hamburgers sold (sometimes near 1,000 a day) negate the possibility of this being representative.

 

Saw him once and I believe I saw someone else another time (think afternoon timeframes). But based on volume business I'd have to agree with you.



#1560 mdt

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 10:57 AM

Are you talking about Michael himself hand-cutting meat behind the counter? I have never been convinced that this was anything more than show. The sheer numbers of hamburgers sold (sometimes near 1,000 a day) negate the possibility of this being representative.

 

Folks were certainly hand grinding meat at the original location. My guess is that they had more grinders going once business really ramped up.



#1561 Marks

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 10:59 AM

First time we ate at the Classics, Michael took our order, cut our steaks and served the food.



#1562 hm212

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 09:33 PM

If you recall Hellburger started as a way for Michael to have a use for the meat scraps and then things just grew from there.



#1563 mtureck

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:06 PM

Great meal at Ray's the Steaks over the weekend, but so sad to end the meal with a little piece of fudge instead of the usual hot chocolate. I loved that hot chocolate!

 

It's been a while since I've been there...could have been the norm for a while.



#1564 Joe H

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:31 PM

When Michael gave up the lease for the original Ray's something was lost.  There was a kind of romance, a real character with that place. 



#1565 DonRocks

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 01:22 PM

reat meal at Ray's the Steaks over the weekend, but so sad to end the meal with a little piece of fudge instead of the usual hot chocolate. I loved that hot chocolate!

 

Are you talking about the Tiger Butter? I actually prefer this - it's one of those things I'm glad I don't have lying around the house because it would all be gone in one evening.

 

When Michael gave up the lease for the original Ray's something was lost.  There was a kind of romance, a real character with that place. 

 

Not to mention Michael Landrum, Michael Hartzer, and Jarad Slipp all under one small roof while waiting for Ray's: The Classics to open.


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#1566 Jimmy Chandler

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 02:07 PM

Great meal at Ray's the Steaks over the weekend, but so sad to end the meal with a little piece of fudge instead of the usual hot chocolate. I loved that hot chocolate!

 

It's been a while since I've been there...could have been the norm for a while.

 

It has been a long while, maybe 3-4 years? I'm not even sure they ever served the hot chocolate at the current location.

 

One thing about Ray's is that almost every time I go there the past few years -- and I go only occasionally -- is that something has usually changed each time. Since Mark left the wine list has shrunk, for example. And the bistro special doesn't include dessert any longer. etc etc.

 

Change is good, unless something that you like changes, then it's bad :)


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#1567 Joe H

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:50 PM

It has been a long while, maybe 3-4 years? I'm not even sure they ever served the hot chocolate at the current location.

 

One thing about Ray's is that almost every time I go there the past few years -- and I go only occasionally -- is that something has usually changed each time. Since Mark left the wine list has shrunk, for example. And the bistro special doesn't include dessert any longer. etc etc.

 

Change is good, unless something that you like changes, then it's bad :)

 

Great post.  Thank you.



#1568 Rhone1998

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 10:08 PM

I learned a long time ago to request my steaks "Medium" at every place, including all of the Landrum empire, in order to get what I considered "Medium Rare."  Otherwise, they invariably come out too rare for me.

 

Good advice, spot on tonight for both the Delmonico (a hedonistic, super beefy aged steak...loved it) and filet mignon au poivre our table ordered.  Both ordered medium and came out the hoped-for medium rare.  There's nothing I can say about RTS that others haven't said a thousand times here and elsewhere, but what a lovely meal to end the weekend.  We don't get here nearly often enough.


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#1569 eatruneat

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 11:50 AM

Heading to Rays to the Third for an early dinner on Sunday. Has anyone been here recently? Any recommendations? Also, would we be able to bring our own wine and pay a corkage fee? 


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#1570 ALargeFarva

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 01:33 PM

Heading to Rays to the Third for an early dinner on Sunday. Has anyone been here recently? Any recommendations? Also, would we be able to bring our own wine and pay a corkage fee? 

 

The best thing I've had there is the cheese steak.  The small one is more than enough food.


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#1571 DaveO

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 02:09 PM

The best thing I've had there is the cheese steak.  The small one is more than enough food.

 

I hit Ray's the 3 periodically.   Love the cheese steak.  Love the burgers, love the steaks, love the shakes.  I also think the small cheese steak is plenty big enough on its own. 



#1572 ALargeFarva

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 02:18 PM

The person who mentioned above that something always seems to change is right.  I've been to Ray's the Steaks probably 30 or 40 times.  On my most recent trip, I noticed several things that I would characterize as "not as good as before":  

 

There must be a lot of turnover because I didn't recognize a single person there.  There were fewer managers walking around and I wasn't able to identify a sommelier in the building (there may have been one, but they're usually pretty easy to spot).  In addition, our service was somewhere between subpar and mediocre.  

 

They were also considerably less busy than they used to be.  I remember times on a Saturday where I'd walk up at 9 pm, get put on a waitlist and wouldn't get seated until after 11 pm.  On my most recent trip, they were pretty much "dead" by 9:30 or 10.  

 

Despite not being very old, the place is showing its age.  The most noticeable thing was carpet near the entrance that looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years.  This would have suited the old space well because it was a hole in the wall (and proud of it).  And it probably would have been in the dining scene of a few years ago, but there's too much competition now.

 

Michael Landrum used to be lauded as an eccentric but brilliant restauranteur but, with his constant changing of menus, failure to launch of Ray's the Catch, selling Ray's the Classics, closing Hell Burger and Hell Burger Too, opening and closing Nice n Greasy Steak n Cheesy in what seemed like the same month and now Ray's the Steak's slipping, I'm beginning to wonder if there might be a more serious way to characterize his idiosyncracies.

 

One positive: the steak was just about as good as always.


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#1573 eatruneat

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 06:50 AM

Thanks for the tips. Dinner at Rays to the Third was pretty good. The menu isn't as varied as what I found online but the food, particularly the lack of steak options. On Sunday, there was only one cut of steak (culotte) on the with a variety of marinades and "toppings." My boyfriend ended up ordering the steak au poivre with bleu cheese and sauteed mushrooms with truffle porcini sauce. I had a bite of the steak which was quite good and juicy, cooked just right to medium rare. I also ate most of the mushrooms and thought they were good, but nothing special and I couldn't taste the truffle porcini sauce. I ended up ordering the Big Punisher. The burger was grilled with their chipotle suace and then topped with charred jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and grilled onions. There was also an incredibly spicy "piranha" sauce served on the side. I really enjoyed my burger, and the patty itself was very very good and juicy. Our table also ordered baskets of the sweet potato fries, tater tots, and regular french fries. All of them were good, with the sweet potato fries being my favorite. To finish the evening, my boyfriend and I split a milkshake. I can't remember what it is called but it had bourbon in it and was topped with whipped cream and crumbled bacon. This was a great milkshake and I wish I had more room in my stomach to finish it. 

 

As for drinks, I called the restaurant and asked whether I could bring a few bottles of wine. I was informed that in addition to being allowed to bring my own wine, there is not a corkage fee. YAY! I ended up bringing two bottles of wine from Paso Robles, both of which were a hit with the group. 


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#1574 DaveO

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 07:06 PM

About a week ago I had the big and cheesy...normal size.   I've had quite a few.  This one was a significant disappointment.  I'd call it "gloppy".  The distinctive and sharp cheesy flavor was "dulled" and the whole thing was all mushed together in what turned out to be unappetizing, and visually unappealing.  Completely surprised me.

 

My friend had a hell burger.  Delicious.  It was too much for her and I managed to cut off and have some of it.  First rate.  As usual.  We accompanied this with two shakes.  Both first rate.  

 

But the big and cheesy;  it was quite a disappointment.  I suspect it was an exception rather than the new rule.  I'll be back to try it again among other dishes at Ray's the 3 and the fancier Ray's.



#1575 DPop

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 07:52 AM

Ray's Retro.  Say what you want about this shrinking franchise (empire?), the Bistro Special at $23.99 for a bowl of the incredible crab bisque and a hangar steak is still one of the best deals you will find anywhere.  Wine prices are up, but probably around where they should be after years of being so low.  


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#1576 rbh

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Posted 04 January 2015 - 09:17 PM

Never thought I'd see this.... Ray's on OpenTable.  I still remember the days of needing to show up in person during the day to make reservations for that evening.....


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#1577 darkstar965

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 05:28 PM

Had a business dinner at RTS a week or few ago after not being there in maybe a year.  As good as ever but boy were we disappointed they were out of the Ken Wright Pinot.  Agree almost odd to see them on OpenTable now but sign of the times I guess.



#1578 Tujague

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 06:16 PM

 Agree almost odd to see them on OpenTable now but sign of the times I guess.

 

I don't know if it's so much sign of the times as a concession to the fact that Ray's is no longer a "buzzed-about" restaurant--or even the network of restaurants it once was--and this is one way that it can reassert its presence in the public eye in the midst of an onslaught of other places competing for dining dollars (even if that part of Arlington has fairly paltry offerings these days). To be honest, I find it easy to forget Ray's when I'm thinking about dining out for special occasions or to take out-of-town guests, even though I've liked it in the past. I hope this is a move that helps to sustain the business.


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#1579 darkstar965

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 06:23 PM

I don't know if it's so much sign of the times as a concession to the fact that Ray's is no longer a "buzzed-about" restaurant--or even the network of restaurants it once was--and this is one way that it can reassert its presence in the public eye in the midst of an onslaught of other places competing for dining dollars ...

 

We agree. By "sign of the times" I mean only the explosion of new places in and around DC along with the social media tsunami that makes some presence including online rezzies almost table stakes to compete.



#1580 hopsing

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 03:19 PM

I think the OpenTable strategy works.  I was browsing OpenTable recently to see where to eat and saw Ray's listed.  I hadn't thought about Ray's in ages.  Guess where I'm going for my birthday this year?



#1581 DaveO

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 07:27 PM

Some days I think about dinner for hours. In general that suggests I'm somewhat off balance. Whatever, I had one of those days and was utterly fortunate to be able to easily visit my nearest Retro Rays around the corner. What an awesome break. A tremendous meal that is far superior to so most of the middling alternatives at comparable pricing.

What is relatively new at your favorite Retro Rays is they added a slimmed down menu of some burger choices, the inimitable bistro special and some smaller portion dishes priced in the teen range.

Really, every neighborhood merits a Retro Rays for such taste quality and value!! If you don't have one in your hood you should try the one in Arlington!!

#1582 DonRocks

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 12:26 AM

Really, every neighborhood merits a Retro Rays for such taste quality and value!! If you don't have one in your hood you should try the one in Arlington!!

 

The only problem is that every time I see "Retro Rays" I'm reminded of this:

 

Flash-Gordon-Clicker-w-bx-rt.jpg

 

Never thought about *that* one, did ya, Buster!

 

Or, *much* more appropriately on multiple levels: Beware the click of doom! ----> X <---- Beware the click of doom!


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#1583 The Doctor

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 01:30 PM

I am confused as to how Retro Ray's works. When it first started I think it had its own entrance, but the last few times I was there they had everyone coming in through the main Ray's entrance. On one occasion I asked to be seated in the Retro area but then was told the retro menu was only in effect on certain days (although they did give it to me after I asked). Is there a set policy for Retro Ray's offerings or is it continually changing?



#1584 DanielK

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Posted 12 January 2015 - 10:18 PM

The 60-day dry-aged porterhouse they had on special today is the best steak I have eaten in years.



#1585 Escoffier

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 10:48 AM

So where is Landrum?  He's gone from a complete and total presence to a complete and total absence.  I miss the obscure literary references (even more so since Stephen Banker died), the completely off-the-cuff conversations and the quick wit.


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#1586 DanielK

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 01:53 PM

The person at the front desk said that he is in most days, but tends to skip out as dinner service is ramping up.



#1587 Marty L.

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 04:46 PM

So where is Landrum?  He's gone from a complete and total presence to a complete and total absence.  I miss the obscure literary references (even more so since Stephen Banker died), the completely off-the-cuff conversations and the quick wit.

 

Not to mention the Chronic videos.


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#1588 FunnyJohn

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Posted 14 January 2015 - 12:35 PM

I encounter Michael occasionally as I stagger around outside Liberty.


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#1589 darkstar965

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Posted 18 February 2015 - 11:12 PM

A group of us met for dinner at Ray's last night and enjoyed it. I was glad they had Ken Wright in stock this time, one of the more admired Wilammette Pinot Noir producers. It was a 2013 blend priced in the low 50s everyone liked.

I got the behemoth Cowboy Cut, bone-in ribeye. Maybe should have spring for the aged version of the same on special but did enjoy it. Forgot to order it medium as my normal medium-rare comes out a bit rare for me here but not a big deal and brought just more than half of it home.

Now need to think of a creative idea for the remainder of it aside from my normal standbys with leftover steak of steak sandwiches, steak salads and steak and eggs.

Landrum & Co. do a respectable key lime pie.
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#1590 DanielK

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 11:49 PM

Landrum & Co. do a respectable key lime pie.

 

Respectable is an understatement - I lived in SoFla for a decade, and this is easily the best KLP I have had away from home.


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#1591 darkstar965

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 02:12 PM

Respectable is an understatement - I lived in SoFla for a decade, and this is easily the best KLP I have had away from home.

Maybe we should start a key lime topic? Only half kidding there. Maybe even a quarter since I've always liked how there are deep substantive topics on this site devoted to different foods.

I intended the word "respectable" as tongue in cheek. That aside, I really enjoyed the slice I had at RTS, finished it without hesitation and thought it a very good version.

Have also spent a lot of time in FL though. As a resident and regular visitor. Enough time to know that much of the KLP there is made with crusts pre-manufactured by large processed-food companies (with HFCS and other sundry chemicals) and fillings with all manner of colorings and additives. The easiest way to spot a poser KLP is when it's green; of course should be more yellow (like Rays). The generally sad state of KLP in SoFla isn't much different from the poser KLP one finds anywhere else.

Part of the challenge in FL is that key limes as a local, viable, commercial crop were wiped out by hurricanes in the 1920s and 1930s. As a result of weather and economic changes, much of the early 20th century key lime industry was summarily replaced with Persian and different imported limes which have different (most would agree less preferable) flavor profiles.

"the introduction of the seedless Persian lime in southern Dade County took its toll on the Key lime. The Persian, plus other Mexican limes, were shipped in and repacked in Florida crates, ending key lime farming as an industry for the Upper Keys. "

Source: http://www.keyshisto...rg/farming.html

More recently, even the bigger foreign sources have had challenges ranging from weather to corruption.

http://www.nytimes.c...ed-species.html

And, this is a great overview of the history.

http://www.nytimes.c...ml?pagewanted=1

Bottom line, because it is harder, more time consuming, and more costly to use real ingredients in KLP (crusts made from scratch, condensed milk, key lime juice not from a bottle and quality egg yolks), most places cut corners whether in FL or elsewhere. Really no different from most any type of traditional or historical food. And, because "real" and "authentic" KLP relies on a small number of ingredients obtainable most anywhere, can find great ones from coast to coast thanks to bakers making them the "right" way. Florida has no lock on this anymore other than from branding and marketing standpoints.

Most people probably don't care about stuff like this or just aren't interested in it. But those who are might agree that the "best" KLP would be from a maker who has access to locally-grown key limes (so fresh and not transported over a week or two from Central America) and locally-produced eggs, along with the desire to make them the "right" way.

Again though, while I have no idea about the specific ingredients in Msgr. Landrum's Key Lime Pie, it was very good and thoroughly enjoyed by two of us who ordered it. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn they're made the "real" way in Arlington at Rays even if the key limes themselves aren't grown in a local greenhouse like Tweaked's nascent pineapple crop. :-) (Love that story!)

http://www.donrockwe...aches-fruition/

#1592 ktmoomau

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 02:31 PM

Does anyone know what the menu for Retro Rays is???  How is it different from Ray's?  I couldn't find it on his website and menupages seemed to have the same Ray's the Steaks.


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#1593 mdt

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 08:41 AM

Does anyone know what the menu for Retro Rays is???  How is it different from Ray's?  I couldn't find it on his website and menupages seemed to have the same Ray's the Steaks.

 

Does the Retro even exist anymore? I was there a few days ago (made a reservation with Open Table, which seemed odd) and we were seated in the Retro space. The front door to the Retro space was blocked off and everyone was coming in through the main door so maybe it's one space now.



#1594 DaveO

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 11:43 AM

Retro Ray's is "there".   Like Kate I had noticed that Retro Ray's, which did have a "separate menu" a bit ago, had not added it to the site.  I'd think that Michael Landrum doesn't pay much attention to the website.  He may simply not be thinking about it, or alternatively has other reasons for not posting the details.  I wouldn't know.

 

I had meant to stop by, copy the menu, and post it here.  Haven't gotten around to doing so.  The menu featured different dishes at significant discounts off of typical Ray's fare and some different items, I think scallops wrapped in bacon as an example.  Possibly I'll get around to it this week.



#1595 DonRocks

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 11:57 AM

Retro Ray's is "there".   Like Kate I had noticed that Retro Ray's, which did have a "separate menu" a bit ago, had not added it to the site.  I'd think that Michael Landrum doesn't pay much attention to the website.  He may simply not be thinking about it, or alternatively has other reasons for not posting the details.  I wouldn't know.

 

I had meant to stop by, copy the menu, and post it here.  Haven't gotten around to doing so.  The menu featured different dishes at significant discounts off of typical Ray's fare and some different items, I think scallops wrapped in bacon as an example.  Possibly I'll get around to it this week.

Does the Retro even exist anymore? I was there a few days ago (made a reservation with Open Table, which seemed odd) and we were seated in the Retro space. The front door to the Retro space was blocked off and everyone was coming in through the main door so maybe it's one space now.

 

I once read an article that mentioned (maybe in the comments on ArlNow?) that Retro Ray's was partially designed as an overflow area for Ray's. It's quite possible that the door was blocked merely due to the cold weather we've been having, but either way, it's essentially a separate dining area for Ray's - when I went, I (vaguely) recall the prices being slightly lower (maybe 10-15%), and it did have its own entrance, but other than that, I don't remember much difference which is not a bad thing. 

 

It's impossible to tell what someone's goals are, but this steakhouse - hell, the name alone - has "retirement on a tropical island" written all over it. I don't care how much the closures cost; the original Hell-Burger was printing money. People say Michael Landrum has stumbled of late, but I know Michael well enough to realize that he can do whatever he wants to do - expand, franchise, sell, upgrade - the world is his oyster, and there is definitely a pearl inside should he choose to open it. There is not one single thing Michael has done that would preclude the future being exactly the way he wishes it to be.


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