Don’t forget the mustard

Ray’s Place on Water Street offers customers an affordable menu and a neighborhood atmosphere not found in other places near student housing

WHATS YOUR BEEF: Rays Place on Water has become well-known for its hot beef sandwich. © 2014 Nick Erickson

WHAT’S YOUR BEEF: Ray’s Place on Water has become well-known for its hot beef sandwich. © 2014 Nick Erickson

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

Uncovering a diamond in the rough is an idea society likes to float out in the open air.

And of all the great places to eat in Eau Claire, that diamond lies in a little local tavern just a block past the boundaries of the infamous “student ghetto” stretching from 1st and Water Street all the way to 7th and Lake Street.

To anyone who has paid a visit to Ray’s Place at 838 Water St., one menu item glows on the light–up board illuminating the back of the smallish bar: the hot beef sandwich for $4.25.

I know what you might be thinking, and that thought is, really? Can’t I simply put beef in a crock-pot all day, run up to Gordy’s for a few hamburger buns and make my own?

While the answer to that particular question might be yes, you truly haven’t had a legitimate hot beef sandwich until you venture down to the tavern just a block from the Hobbs Ice Center.

First off, they put on the right amount of beef. Isn’t it the worst when you try to eat a sandwich and half of it ends up on your plate because it is physically impossible to fit everything into your mouth, or you are simply biting down on flavored bread? I agree.

The bun is heated up just a little bit to create a nice soft taste so the meat soaks in your mouth and takes you to a place where all your problems go away.

But here’s the real kicker of the sandwich, and when I say kicker, I truly mean kicker. The fine folks of Rays offer horseradish sauce. If you’re a condiment person like myself, you might be tempted to spread this sauce all over the joint.

Here’s a word for the wise: be careful. It is arguably the most delicious sauce in the world, but it will literally make your eyes water if you put too much on. If you are lucky enough to put on the perfect amount, it will compliment your sandwich perfectly.

Yes, the hot beef sandwich has become a renowned treat in Eau Claire. But there’s a lot more to the tavern that makes it a

First off, this is a shoutout to all those students who live past the last bus stop on 7th Street and Water Street, where the more well-known Water St. establishments are a bit uncomfortable of a walk on a frigid winter day (in case you forgot, we have plenty of those). Ray’s Place is right in the middle of the neighborhood where the student ghetto technically cuts off, but of course, plenty of students still live there, making it a very convenient stop if you’re  looking for a getaway.

Also, it has some fantastic food deals. Unlike a lot of bars and restaurants on Water St., the food is almost just as good as the drinks. You can get a plentiful amount of cheese and crackers for a mere $1.25. For just a little something to nibble on, that’s perfect.

Also, they have almost a convenient store-type setting near the entrance. Yes, that means you can buy candy bars, bags of chips or small bags of popcorn to have with you as you sit with some of your friends at the bar or a table. Doesn’t get much better.

As far as the atmosphere goes, it is a very nice change of pace from other college hangouts. It caters to an older crowd, giving you a nice break from that one bumbling idiot screaming at a bar farther down the street (you all know who you are).

Also, they have dart boards to make for a friendly competition if that’s what you’re feeling.

And lastly, once the weather gets warm out, which who knows how long that will be exactly, they have a great outdoor patio that is absolutely perfect for a gorgeous summer night.

If you’re looking for something low-key and casual, Ray’s Place is definitely a great option. And as far the horseradish sauce goes, you’ve been warned.