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Catching up with Justin Theroux and Carlos Quirarte, the actor/writer and NYC scenemaker behind Ray’s NYC.

By Tyler Thoreson

Photos by Weston Kloefkorn

In the runup to the launch of our new collab, we sat down with Justin Theroux and Carlos Quirarte, the famous friends behind Ray’s NYC—the New York hotspot dressed up as your favorite Lower East Side local—for a chat about the inspiration behind Ray’s, their first Stetsons, and, of course, their go-to karaoke tunes.

The Open Road 6X “Raygular” Edition A classic Open Road in Silverbelly with a custom cobranded liner and exclusive “Raygular” pin. Available October 13, 2023 in highly limited quantities, exclusively on

The welcoming vibe of Ray’s is pretty apparent to anyone who’s been, but for the folks at home, what were you trying to create when you conceived it? Was it sort of your ideal vision of a local bar?

CARLOS QUIRARTE: Definitely. Even with the name Ray’s, the idea was that it could exist in any city. In every city, in D.C. where Justin grew up. We wanted a place that made everybody, no matter what, feel like: hey, that’s familiar. I want to go there. Without making it feel like a set.

THEROUX: It’s also just one of those places, where the more it gets lived in, like an old shoe—or an old hat…

You’re speaking our language.

JUSTIN: The more it gets used, the more beautiful it becomes. It feels comfortable. Like a living room. In Austin, there are a lot of bars like this. They’re not pretentious, or trying to be exclusive. We’ve just tried to let it be organic to New York and the neighborhood and whoever ends up coming. So, we had a whole Taylor Swift night, which was not expected…

CARLOS: We had a vintage sale just last weekend with local people from the neighborhood. We try not to take it too seriously, just have fun. We’re of the mind that If we’re not having fun, how can anyone else?

Theroux and Quirarte in front of Ray’s western-inspired mural.

How would you describe a typical night at Ray’s?

JUSTIN: Well, that depends what night you come. You come Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, you’ll find a gently spinning disco ball and quiet drinks at the bar. Friday and Saturday it’s going to be a lot more jam packed and higher energy. It’s a great spot to go before you go somewhere, or a great spot to land afterwards.

CARLOS: That’s the beauty of New York. The mixture of locals, tourists and people out just looking to have a good time…the weekend warriors. We’ve met so many people that come through this bar, whose entire group of friends are people they met at this bar. That’s kind of the ethos we’re going for. A place where you can meet friends for life.

You guys have been friends for a while. How did this whole thing start?

JUSTIN: I was running from the law. It was…just outside of Paris, TX…

CARLOS: I was also on the run…

JUSTIN: We did some time and…[laughs]. No, Carlos had this great space that was a restaurant and it was…ready to evolve. We realized we could put something together for not that much money that could be a great addition to the neighborhood. It was really just as simple as that.

Justin, you’re a long time Stetson fan. Tell us about your first one.

JUSTIN: My first Stetson. Well, it’s actually not too far from my story with this bar. It started in Austin when I first moved to Texas to do some work.. I went to Allens Boots on South Congress and I bought an Open Road, the hat Carlos is wearing. This one I’m wearing now is a crushable hat that I’ve beaten up and it still looks great. It’s just an American classic.

The first is rarely the last.

JUSTIN: When you think about these hats and all of the incredible moments in American history in particular that these hats have been present for, from president to movie stars to outlaws. It’s iconic.

CARLOS: My first experience with Stetson was when I went to Texas to visit Justin and he said, “We’re getting you a Stetson.” And he took me to Allens Boots and that’s where I got my first Stetson.

Speaking of iconic, you guys recently made the cover of New York Magazine’s annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue, alongside Chuck Schumer, Spike Lee, Emily Ratajkowski and a bunch of other famous New Yorkers. How did that come to be?

JUSTIN: It was really random and I didn’t quite understand what was happening. We got a phone call saying to show up at this corner and we’re going to photograph you, but it was at different times of day and they comped the photo together later. Kuma [Theroux’s beloved pitbull] was in the photo…but they covered her up! It was a big scandal. [laughs]. Lots of calls from Kuma’s publicist afterwards.

CARLOS: I think it was either Kuma or me, and they decided to keep me.

[Kuma, on cue, jumps up on the booth]

JUSTIN: And she’s ready for a treat.

Theroux in his signature Stetson crushable Fedora, holding the “Raygular” Edition Open Road 6X.

Justin, final question. You gave one of the all-time great on-screen karaoke performances in The Leftovers. Do you have a go-to karaoke tune?

JUSTIN: I don’t really have a go-to karaoke tune…

CARLOS: Um, yeah you do. You do that Bon Jovi

JUSTIN: I do! I sing “Blaze of Glory.” It’s definitely “Blaze of Glory.” [singing]: “Shot! Doooooown. In a blaze of glory!”

Again, you are speaking our language.

JUSTIN: Also, any Slick Rick song. I don’t even have to look at the words.

CARLOS: I go for R&B and ballads. “I Swear”, “Fast Car.” Or “November Rain” if I want everybody to leave.

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