RAY’S OF KELSO

Recently we were invited to have dinner at Ray’s restaurant in Kelso. Off the beaten path, this little gem is known far and wide for some of the best steaks and food in southeast Missouri. Our field trip proved to be a great experience. The food was fantastic, the atmosphere was incredible and Ray was a very gracious host. Welcome to Ray’s of Kelso.

Ray grew up around good food. From early on he was always hanging out in his grandmother’s kitchen and wanting to help in his parents’ restaurant, Ray‘s House of Pizza and Steaks. The restaurant originally opened in 1967 with the construction of Interstate 55, between Sikeston and Cape. Ray’s parents owned a drive-in restaurant on Highway 61, but had to relocate the restaurant when traffic flow was greatly reduced. His parents, true entrepreneurs at heart, moved the business closer to the customers by modifying the family home and moving in their restaurant. At age seven, Ray was doing “the simple things that children could do” (as he puts it) in the family business. Fortunately, his 100% Italian grandmother shared her recipes with Ray and with the restaurant, and those dishes are being served even today.

Ray has the gift of hospitality in his heart, so he has naturally held key positions with successful industry leaders such as TGI Fridays, Frito Lay, Ruby Tuesday and Sysco Food Service. These experiences helped his career come full circle in Ray’s House of Pizza and Steaks. Along with his wife, Cindy, Ray continues to build the family’s reputation for good food. Three of his sons work with them in the business. Their grandson, Chad, is a regular diner and a good helper, already astute in the business.

Ray tells us that one key to the success of the restaurant is… “The difference is in the little things, no matter the cost.” This is evidenced in the quaint, casual, and warm feel of a family-run business combined with the class, decor and attention to detail found in renowned restaurants.

The family business has grown since Ray’s House of Pizza and Steaks was rekindled in 2004. In Kelso, the main restaurant, which was built in 1920 as the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Kelso, was renovated and restored as close to its original appearance as possible. Guests can still experience the original tin ceiling and the original marble floors and walls; even the original bank vault and its steel door are intact.

Adjacent to the main restaurant is the Whiteford House, perfect for private dining or for groups, seating up to 50 people. The Outdoor Courtyard dining area is nestled between these two buildings.

In Cape Girardeau, the family operates the Plaza Conference Center (adjacent to the Holiday Inn) for banquets and large events. With three different rooms, they can accommodate groups from 30 to 750, for weddings, conventions, parties, dinner auctions, reunions, whatever the need.

Catering is also available at your location of choice in the cities of Cape Girardeau, Charleston and Sikeston. Their fully equipped “Kitchen on Wheels” is complete with three ovens, refrigerators and freezer. The food is cooked fresh and on location. Any event is possible! The group is quite frequently seen all over Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

It is quite obvious why the restaurant is so popular. All you have to do is taste the food! The portabella mushroom dish is marinated for 24 hours, stuffed and baked with a spinach-artichoke mixture, then topped with almonds and smoked gouda cheese. It is served with chickpea-black sesame chips. It is rich and salty, yet smooth and creamy. The chips balance it out and add crunch.

For dessert, try Bananas Foster Flambé. The chef flames fresh bananas in butter, brandy, rum and banana liqueur with cinnamon, brown sugar, apricot preserves and minced, dry roasted peanuts. It is served over vanilla bean ice cream. The warm, caramelized mixture—which is like no other—is served with the flavorful, cold ice cream. And it’s definitely worth the over-indulgence.

And what to drink? Try Gerard Bertrand Minervois Syrah 2009, France. The red wine completed the Chateaubriand. Or perhaps you might try the Vietti Moscato d’Asti 2012, Italy. This is their most popular white wine, and I could taste why.

The food, the family, and the attention to detail are the reasons why Ray’s continues to be one of the most sought after dining experiences in Southeast Missouri.

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE DIGITAL EDITION WITH PHOTO SPREAD AND VIDEO. (Feb 2014 ISSUE)

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