Move by Ray's the Steaks proprietor demonstrates faith in a community
On the west side of the strip-mall-style building on Dix Street NE, you can order a Triple Meat pizza.
You might have to repeat the order several times, because the bulletproof window separating the Pizza Hut guy from you is thicker than a deep-dish crust, so it's hard to talk through.
And that's just demoralizing and insulting, implying to the residents of Ward 7 every day that violence is anticipated at every turn.
Who can live like that?
On the east side of that same building, dining will be very different in a few days. You'll be able to sit down, which is something very few places on this side of the District will allow a diner to do. You'll be able to spread a cloth napkin over your lap and drink wine from a stemmed glass.
Your server will wear a dapper, bluish-gray vest, and you can discuss the menu with him face to face. Nothing bulletproof here.
It's a big change for this neighborhood, the opening of a restaurant so completely different from the carryout culture that has dominated every other street corner for years.
And it's a move fraught with mixed emotions.
During the fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony for Ray's the Steaks this week, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), a few D.C. Council members and lots of people in sharp suits talked about the sirloin and the joy of having a foodie hot spot right off Minnesota Avenue. They vowed that they'd be regulars.
Restaurateur Michael "Ray" Landrum, who has a string of places that play on the clever take on his nickname -- Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring and Ray's Hell-Burger in Arlington, and so on -- has fed many Washingtonians, even President Obama. But he hadn't brought his business into the District.
"It's high time that I did get around to opening a restaurant in the District," Landrum said, and thanked the community that "allowed me to take this kind of risk."
But throughout the ribbon-cutting and the speeches and the photo ops, people walking by let everyone know they weren't giddy because high-end steak is close to home. They aren't looking for a place to dine, but in a city ward where unemployment is almost 20 percent -- noticeably higher than the District's 12.1 percent average -- they were simply looking for work.