Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: The Steak & Cheese Joint

0002Michael Landrum has done it again. The purveyor of all things red meat has again opened a restaurant catering to those who have a taste for beef with the opening of The Steak & Cheese Joint earlier this month.

Since Ray’s Hell Burger Too closed a few weeks ago with the announcement of a “big new surprise” to come, local carnivores have been craving more information about what would come of the spot, located just a few doors down from and within the same plaza as the famed Ray’s Hell Burger. The secret was revealed with the opening of a new restaurant dedicated to the steak and cheese sandwich.

The Ray’s Hell Burger website announces this new spot as “The Steak & Cheese Joint,” but no signage or printed menu would confirm this as the restaurant’s proper name. All diners see on the storefront window to suggest that yes, this is the restaurant that many of the Washington, D.C. area food blogs have been talking about, is a marker-drawn sign proclaiming “steak and cheese here!”

If it weren’t for the diners eager to try the new Rosslyn restaurant diving face first into the sandwiches at tables within, one might think the restaurant wasn’t even open given its dimmed lighting and naked walls. But the restaurant is, indeed, open, and those who wish can order a steak and cheese sandwich, pull up a plastic lawn chair, and try this restaurant’s fare.

Those seeking variety in a menu might want to look elsewhere, because this restaurant’s menu – as announced on, yet again, a written-on sheet of paper – serves only steak and cheese sandwiches at $10.99 and tater tots for $2. (The restaurant takes cash only, but a register-adjacent ATM lessens the burden.)
But with this menu comes a curious addendum, one that hopes to separate the sandwiches here from Philly cheesesteaks – that great source of regional pride that has sparked a thousand arguments over authenticity, quality and greasy-spoon allegiance.

0001The sandwich – which arrives foil-wrapped atop a cafeteria tray to the table – combines sliced steak, cheese and vegetables atop buns from Lyon Bakery. The standard sandwich comes with half a pound of steak (rib-eye and top sirloin, Angus and Hereford beef), topped with a two-cheese combination (provolone and American), lettuce, tomato, and grilled onion. Peppers and mushrooms can be added to the mix for 50 cents apiece, but the greatest overall impression is made by the meat-cheese-bread trifecta.

The meat is of the great quality one might expect from the Ray’s dynasty. The sliced pieces are cooked together in lumps, which gives the meat more of a patty than a shredded meat consistency (but gives the meat some pockets to hide from the sometimes overwhelming toppings and impart simple, unadorned beef flavors).
The cheese combination, stringy with provolone and gooey with American cheese, is pleasant in texture and powerful in flavor, with the American cheese going heavy duty on the unrefined but oh-so-fun flavors of mac and cheese and grilled cheeses past.

The rolls the sandwich is served upon are chewy, but dense, and make the sandwich the perfect size for eating – a big mouthful with not too much jaw-straining effort. Though the meat is not so greasy as to be distracting, the toasted bread does have its work cut out for it in standing up to the cheese and meat. With just the outer edges of the roll going soggy with beef juices (a pleasant reminder of this so-bad-but-so-good treat), the bread meets the challenge.

Wonderfully crispy tater tots, and a modest selection of beers, wines and sodas complete the meal, the whole of which reminds diners that sometimes a great meal can come with a simple combination of a few good ingredients.

The Steak & Cheese Joint is located at 1713 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, visit rayshellburger.com. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

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