Big Mouth

Ray’s Place

More stories from Maggie Cipriano

On Hawai’i Time
December 3, 2018

If you ask a local where to eat lunch, odds are they will tell you to head to Ray’s Place.

Ray’s Place looks very inconspicuous, with a small front window and a large “Ray’s” written on a wooden wall. What lies inside, though, is a small treasure of Eau Claire. It is a dark, homey bar where the locals go to drink cold beer and enjoy special, sloppy sandwiches.

Dim lights greet you when you walk through the door, confusing your mind making you think it is always dusk while inside Ray’s. This is a unique characteristic that somehow adds a sense of calm and relaxation.

The full bar expanding the length of the restaurant is backlit and ready to be put to use. The low ceilings and wood panel walls resemble a cozy basement. The antlers on the wall above the bar hold strands of colorful twinkle lights adding to this down-home feel.

The menu is plastered on the wall at the back of the restaurant. It is an old, tinted letter board with the entire menu written out: eight sandwiches and soups, seven types of pizza and pizza fries. Short and simple.

Once I was seated, I ordered a tall glass of Schweppes Ginger Ale. Sometimes there are drinks that match your atmosphere — this was one of those times. The drink was refreshing, sweet and riddled with bubbles.

What Ray’s is famous for are the ham and beef sandwiches. These sandwiches are cooked for hours over low heat in a crockpot smothered in a gooey sauce, served on a warm roll with a special horseradish mustard. Of course, this is what I ordered.

The sandwich is not served a plate. It is served on a paper towel square, which will come in handy later.

Biting into this sandwich is a wild mess. Sauce dripping down your forearms, smeared all over your face. The ham, piled a mile high, takes maneuvering to not slip right off the much too small bun. While the sauce and ham are steamy and salty, the horseradish mustard gives the sandwich a nice post-bite kick.

Alongside the ham sandwich I had a piping hot bowl of the pea soup. This was not your mother’s pea soup that was too thick to enjoy, with much too little flavor. This pea soup was the best I had ever tried. The soup was runny and smooth and had tiny bits of ham and various veggies floating around the bowl, making each spoonful perfect and as proportionate as the next.

This meal together is ideal for a chilly winter day in Eau Claire. Yes, this food is comforting and filling, but the best part about this meal is that it only cost me $8 in all. Ray’s prides itself on its affordable, yet outrageously delicious and homemade menu.

As for vegan and vegetarian options, there are not many. French fries; that is about it, sadly. As for the non-vegans, welcome to heaven. Everything here is covered in cheese and paired with meat.

When the air is chilly, your wallet is running low, and your stomach empty, make the trek to Ray’s Place. You will not be disapointed.