Ray’s Restaurant and Lounge – in Edwards | VailDaily.com

Ray’s Restaurant and Lounge – in Edwards

Melissa M. Kellogg
Shane Macomber/Vail DailySeated around a lit glass bar people gather for a few drinks and mabye a bite to eat at Ray's Lounge in Edwards.
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Walk into the new Edwards hot spot, Ray’s Restaurant and Lounge, and you may first notice the Italian mosaic tile floor or the dark wood ceiling beams that radiate out from the bar – or the large, half moon bar lit from underneath to look like a glass of Coca-Cola in the sunshine. This spacious, lively new restaurant is the brainchild of owner Pete Mueller and Director of Operations Jeff Sandoval. The team opened their first restaurant together, Sato, five years ago. Also in Edwards, Sato, is a favorite among locals for sushi and its unique brand of Asian fusion cuisine. After the success of Sato, the team sought to fill another perceived need among the Edwards clientele.”We felt Edwards needed a sophisticated, urban-style place to hang out,” Sandoval says. Driven by their own love of a good steak and good wine, they sought to create “someplace where people could go to hang out and have drinks or they could have a fantastic meal,” Mueller says. Having learned a great deal about the clientele in the Edwards area over the last five years they felt an urban, sophisticated steak house like Ray’s could be a hit. So far it seems they’ve been right.

One need only visit the restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night when reservations for dinner are hard to come by and the bar area is full of customers.Ray’s is located in the new Edwards Corner shopping center at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Edwards Village Boulevard. Inspired by urban restaurants in Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver and New York, its interior is incomparable in Edwards or the Vail Valley. Along with a great team of interior designers and decorators, led by Tracie Schumacher of Slifer Designs and Dana Hugo of Worth Interiors, Mueller and Sandoval were able to envision a unique, sophisticated, urban environment. From the floor to ceiling glass front, to the distinctive mosaic tile and Brazilian cherry wood floors to the dark red leather booths and back lit bar, the space is visually pleasing and welcoming. And what about the menu and wine list? Sandoval describes the menu as a classic steak house with a creative specials. In creating the menu they wanted to offer the traditional chop house fare but also offer a creative nightly specials sheet for those that may prefer not to try one of their USDA choice steaks and chops. While Ray’s menu is sophisticated and eclectic, one can also get an reasonably priced sandwich or burger and a Pabst Blue Ribbon. The wine list is frequently lauded by restaurant customers. In creating the wine list, management wants to make it accessible to everyone but also have options for those that want to go pricier.

So how did this winning team come up with their formula for success? Mueller and Sandoval have known each other since high school in Milwaukee, when both got their start in the restaurant business. During the almost two decades since then, they have both worked in all positions of food service from bartender to busboy to line cook to management. And through the years they have formulated their philosophy and vision behind a successful restaurant. It’s simple: great service, great atmosphere and great food. It is also great teamwork. They encourage their team to leave their egos at the door and Mueller and Sandoval certainly practice what they preach. The management team believes they have been most successful at hiring a quality, hardworking staff that actually cares about the happiness of their customers. “This is our house,” says Sandoval. “We want people to feel welcome and have a good time here.”

The management philosophy the restaurant employs is one not only of teamwork, but also of striving to keep the large staff motivated and challenged. The team’s ability to motivate is attested by the numerous staffers that have worked for Sato since its opening day five years ago. “We feel like that’s rare,” says Sandoval. “If the staff isn’t learning and just stagnating, they won’t want to stick around.”What’s next for the Ray’s team? “We would like to start a small boutique hotel in the Caribbean so we can rotate our staff down there,” says Sandoval. They envision a small, six-room hotel with a small bar and small restaurant. Sandoval is excited about the hotel, however Mueller speculates he may want to open three or four more restaurants. “We’re entertainers, we love to cook good food and we love to drink good wine. We go out every night,” says Sandoval. “We love to entertain and that’s what this is all about.”Vail Colorado