Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nice 'n' Greasy Steak 'n' Cheesy

Michael Landrum, father of the Ray's the Steaks and Ray's Hell Burger empire, is a guy that does what he wants.  He was famous for not having websites for his restaurants (now he does) and not taking credit cards (now he does in some locations, thank you!).  Mr. Landrum's "do what I want" outlook is perhaps nowhere more apparent than this little spot in the strip mall on Wilson Avenue in Arlington.

This place has changed formats more times than I can count.  For a while it was doing take-out for Ray's Hell Burger.  Then it became the sit-down table service version of Ray's Hell Burger.  Then last year he closed the "Hell Burger Too" concept and opened "Steak and Cheese" serving steak and cheese sandwiches (not Philly cheesesteaks, according to Landrum).  Then Landrum closed Steak and Cheese a month later and went back to the "Hell Burger Too" concept.  In May, Landrum opened "Nice 'N' Greasy Steak 'N' Cheesy" in the space but also kept the Hell Burger menu items.  Confused?  Us too.  We never know quite what we're going to get when we walk into this place and that's what's fun about it.

The space is stripped down and focused totally on the food.  They weren't doing table service when we were there, but I don't pretend to know if that's a "normal" thing or if they sometimes do table service.  They do take credit cards and that makes us happy campers.  We ordered at the counter, zoning in on the new menu items (though it was really hard to pass up our favorite burgers).

B ordered the Spicy-As-Hell Chicken Sandwich (chicken breast marinated in Ray's famous blend of burning hot spices with pepper jack cheese, charred jalapenos, hell fire mayo, lettuce and tomato on a potato roll).  It was indeed spicy as hell.  I took one bite and instantly had tears streaming down my face.  Beyond smacking us in the face with spice, it was a good chicken sandwich, but still a chicken sandwich.  The onion fries were as delicious as they look.

I ordered the Shock G steak and cheese sandwich featuring 1/3 lb of sliced "premium heart of rib eye," American and provolone cheeses, and grilled onions on a toasted Lyon Bakery sub roll. Because this wasn't coronary-inducing enough, I added charred jalapenos ($0.50 extra) and "groove grease."  Groove grease is a secret concoction of yumminess that defies proper description.  It's greasy, groovy, a little spicy, and I really don't think I want to know how many calories it has.

This was a truly epic sandwich.  It was messy and hard to eat, but I couldn't keep my eyes from rolling back into my head with each delicious bite.  It's not trying to be a Philly cheese steak, it's trying to be a high quality steak sandwich and from my grease-covered point of view, it succeeds.

Second Thoughts from B

You win some and you lose some.  While I clearly won by ordering the onion fries (more on these in a second), I lost the sandwich battle to J.  Unlike my beloved New Jack Zing at Ray's Hell Burger that uses heat to balance out the creamy, salty, and savory elements in the sandwich, the Spicy-As-Hell Chicken Sandwich was spicy layered upon spicy.  It felt more like a dare than a meal.  And since I'm not an aspiring Fear Factor contestant, all I did was slurp down gallons of water and covet J's plate.

Back to the onion fries though.  Putting a gourmet twist on common foods is not a new idea.  However, the common foods tend to be tired, if not dreadful, foods that inspired childhood nightmares.  Chefs like to embrace the challenge of making mouth watering versions of things that you'd otherwise stay away from.  On the other hand, Nice 'n' Greasy Steak 'n' Cheesy took a guilty pleasure - Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin Onion - and made it better.  How?  No clue.  Like you, my dear reader, I thought the Bloomin Onion was not to be tampered with.  Sent from the Almighty as a gift to us mere mortals who craved a bit of joy in our otherwise drab existence.  To elevate fried and greasy perfection is simply divine.  Now if there was just an anti-coronary option...


Biz said...

I am going to grill up some jalapenos for my next burger - I love it spicy!!

J said...

Yum, love jalapenos on my burgers. Nice N Greasy took it a little far by leaving all the seeds in the jalapenos and piling on 16 other spicy ingredients on the chicken sandwich. The jalapenos were a great touch on the steak sandwich though. Highly recommended.