THE WEEKLY DISH TOM SIETSEMA

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A MAN ON A MISSION: With more than two years left on his lease, Michael Landrum, the civic-minded owner of Ray's the Steaks (1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-841-7297), plans to relocate his wildly popular operation to the nearby Navy League Building (2300 Wilson Blvd.) and use the current space for what he calls his "real dream" and "ultimate goal": A Place at the Table, a "Memphis-style family restaurant" dedicated to supporting "less-advantaged communities." Among other aims, patrons will be able to get a full meal ("a meat and three sides") for $15 or less.

Landrum, 41, who also owns Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring, emphasizes that the reason for the move is "not to expand, not greed, although it is a larger space with enough room for a bar area so that people don't have to wait outside for their table," as they do now at his shoe box of a steakhouse. He says the main criterion for a fresh location was that anyone who can now walk to Ray's the Steaks should still be able to. "I plan to change absolutely nothing about the restaurant."

It will have a neighbor, however: Next to the new quarters, Landrum plans to open a self-service bake shop-cafe, Rise, that will offer desserts, breads, soups, salads and, the restaurateur hopes, "what should be the best steak and cheese ever known to mankind." The name of the bakery was inspired by a quote from civil rights activist and poet W.E.B. DuBois: "There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise."

The change in Landrum's portfolio is "a no-brainer," he says. "We depend on people in the community for workers and guests."

And when might all these ideas become reality, his followers want to know? "I expect that the new space will take exactly twice as long to build as whatever I originally estimate," Landrum says. Translation: "Hopefully, by the end of the year."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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