Michael Landrum has two successful restaurants in the D.C. metro area — Ray’s the Classic, in Silver Spring, Md. and Ray’s Hell-Burger, which is located in Arlington, Va.
And soon, he will be moving into the District with his third restaurant.
Ray’s the Heat will be the second sit-down restaurant in Ward 7. The only other is Denny’s.
“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of a great community and it’s just underserved,” Landrum said of Ward 7.
Landrum said he didn’t choose Ward 7 to get attention for being the first new restaurant in the area in a decade, and doesn’t want to “play up” the Ward 7 angle.
Like the Arlington and Silver Spring locations, the restaurant’s mood will be integrated with the needs of the community. The style, Landrum said, will look to the neighborhood for its “cues.”
Landrum’s new restaurant will have a “very, very strong value post,” he said, referring to the homemade food of seafood and other fresh ingredients that he expects to serve.
The cuisine will have some southern and Maryland reference points because Landrum said he has “a great affinity for that food.” He said he will try out his ‘Maryland fried chicken,’ which he said is a favorite at the Silver Spring location.
“What I’m calling it is ‘soulful cooking,'” he said. “I’m not trying to lay claim to a heritage that’s not mines.”
Landrum is white, and said, as at his other restaurants, he is paying tribute — not trying to imitate.
A lot of the meals will be the products of deep seasoning, slow-cooking and simmering for maximum flavor. There will also be a lot of spicy dishes and Landrum’s special ‘Nashville Hot Chicken.’
He has perused the shopping areas and attended Advisory Neighborhood Council meetings in the ward, and said the ward is full of great people.
To further reach out to Ward 7 residents, Landrum said he will provide job-training opportunities and plans of doing most of his hiring locally.
To be housed in the East River Park Shopping Center, a strip mall at the intersection of Benning Rd. NE and Minnesota Ave. NE, the restaurant is at a prime location in the ward. That means more eyes on Landrum.
“Fortunately and unfortunately,” Landrum said, “I’m at a point in my career where I get attention for what I do from the gate.”
He said he gets at least one offer every day from developers to open a new restaurant at a different location.
While his reputation is good for business, Landrum said he wants to “build the roots very deep and very strong” with the community through his family atmosphere and the food.
Ray’s the Heat will feature a “blend of themes and cuisines that work with my restaurants,” Landrum said.
The warm, family-friendly environment of Ray’s the Heat will be housed in a 2,000 square foot area. Landrum said that he will take up two lots of the strip mall — a vacant store and wig shop whose lease is almost up.
Landrum said it’s never a good feeling to take someone’s spot.
“I hate that part of it,” he said.