In Washington’s vast gastronomic landscape, many great dishes can be overlooked in favor of flashier, pricier options. On my never-ending quest to discover what’s new and delicious, I tend to seek out the unsung heroes of the menu. My latest search for an underdog took place at Michael Landrum’s Ray’s3 (1650 Wilson Blvd., Arlington).
Ray’s3 sells many of the same steaks as Ray’s the Steaks and Classics, but as “steak-frites” (steak and fries), and for lunch, there are “gusher” burgers (double patties stuffed with cheese). Many reviewers have focused on Ray’s3’s red meat, but I’m more interested in the Hell Chicken. (Yes, I dared to order chicken at a steak house! Who can resist a name like Hell Chicken?)
The dinner entree ($12.99) consists of two skillet-fried breasts encased in a deep brown spice rub. The chicken’s crispy coating definitely packs heat. But when you add the sauces that come on the side — cilantro-heavy green chile sauce and hotter red “hell sauce” (the contents of which are a mystery) — there’s the potential for a full-on this-calls-for-milk moment, making Hell Chicken a fitting, if unoriginal, name. The dish also comes with decent fire extinguishers: mac and cheese, and coleslaw.
The Hell Chicken is new to Landrum’s canon and sold only at Ray’s3, but it’s been heartily endorsed by waitresses both times I’ve been to the restaurant. Hell, I’d eat it again.