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Maverick meat man Michael Landrum — I just love saying those words together — informed his many Rockwellian followers yesterday that he’s temporarily shelving his plans to open Ray’s The Catch in favor of expanding his tiny Ray’s Hell Burger shop. You can blame the president for dry-docking The Catch.
President Obama‘s visit last month to Hell Burger has been such a boon to the Arlington joint that Landrum has been forced to move the ground-beef operation just up the street to 1725 Wilson Blvd, the former location of Ray’s The Steaks and the would-be spot for Ray’s The Catch, the restaurateur’s rebellious seafood outlet that will follow the RTS model of budget pricing. As early as this week, the current Hell Burger location at 1713 Wilson will be transformed into The Hell Express, “for take-out, overflow and ice cream, floats and (maybe) shakes,” Landrum wrote on DonRockwell.com.
The way Landrum explained it to Y&H this morning, the moves were necessary to save a ship in danger of sinking.
Hell Burger “was becoming so overcrowded that we needed a lifeboat to get people off,” Landrum told Y&H. The only problem, the restaurateur noted, is that he didn’t have a lifeboat. He just had a yacht, a recently refurbished one christened Ray’s The Catch, which was ready to set sail right around the time of Obama’s burger run.
There will be no long pleasure cruises now on Landrum’s yacht— at least for the immediate future. It’s been commissioned into service for Ray’s Hell Burger, doing the hard, thankless work of cranking out 10-ounce burgers for the masses who can’t seem to get enough of them. Landrum is philosophical about turning his luxury yacht into a working boat. “What does it matter?” he says. “Use the goddamn yacht.”
So how much has business increased since Obama’s visit to Ray’s? Landrum is coy. He doesn’t want to give out hard numbers, but he will say this: Before Obama’s stopover, Hell Burger was operating at full capacity on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, forcing staff to prep early and work late to serve everyone who walked through the door. Weekdays used to be a time when the Hell Burger team could sort of, kind of catch its breath.
Post-Obama, “our weekdays have become weekend numbers,” Landrum says. “It’s been an all-hands-on-deck situation.”
Landrum says he had an inkling this might happen once the media went mad over the president’s visit to Hell. The story got play in media outlets half way across the globe, including Saudi Arabia, Landrum notes. The burger man was even re-interviewed when Obama visited Five Guys, for chrissakes.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, how great is this!'” Landrum says about the presidential drive-by. “But then my second thought was, ‘What am I going to do to keep this from crushing us?'”
Just don’t get used to the current situation. Landrum swears he will open Ray’s The Catch eventually, hopefully in the very spot he intended. He says the restaurant is too important to him to just drop. “This is just a temporary solution,” Landrum says. He expects to launch Ray’s The Catch in late summer or early fall.
Assuming, of course, that demand for a Ray’s Hell Burger has dropped off by then, which is a major goddamn assumption.
Photo by Apium