Atmosphere: A huge waterfront chow hall that regularly packs in the seafood hounds.

Price range: Many a fish dish from $5.95 to a shore dinner - the works - at $13.95; children's dinners for $2.50 or $3.25.

Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturdays, noon to midnight; Sundays, noon to 10 p.m.

Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. Booster seats and high chairs for small children. Discount parking underground but space limited.

Reservations: On a first-come basis unless you're arranging a meal for 12 or more.

Credit cards: American Express, Amoco Torch Club, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, Master Charge, Visa and heaven knows what else.

On a Friday evening in Washington there's nothing quite like an intimate waterside dinner for several hundred at Hogate's.

Hogate's has been around the Maine Avenue waterfront in some form or another for an one or two - and its form today is huge.So please have a seat in the lobby and we'll get you to the table momentarily.

Besides, there's something one must do before one does much of anything at Hogate's - and that's find a place to park. We followed the sign to the underground lot and managed to horn into the next-to-last space before the man lowered the boom across the entrance. So much for that area at barely 7 p.m.

Upstairs and into the big hallway, which looks like a bus terminal gone nautical: people milling around between announcements on the public address system and fortunately, quite a few captain's chairs to use while you're waiting to be summoned.

The decor is about as subtle as Moby Dick: portholes framing starfish that have been tacked on the walls, old ship models in glass cases, tables that look like treasure chests and a whole navy of people in blue middie blouses and white skirts or slacks whistling from room to room with menus and trays.

Barely 12 minutes passed before the voice called for our crew of four; we were then led into a vast sea of tables in a series of rooms, sections, nooks and even a cranny or two.

We were lucky and got to drop anchor in a cove by the window with an excellent view of the water, the airplanes over National, a cruise boat, the Jefferson Memorial and bicyclists.

As the sun began sinking, there was even one of those aqua-colored amphibious cars (remember them?) doing circles in the water. In the distance, just to make all of us stomach-stuffers feel a little sheepish, you could see joggers chugging along the Hains Point horizon.

An affable middie wearing a "Betty" pin supplied the preliminary provisions: soft drinks, draft bears and a Hogate's trademark - a basket of rum buns with icing that won't quit. The napkins, by the way, are brown handtowels, which is smart planning for seafood and sticky-buns.

In addition to the main menu, there's a card marked "For the Young Sailor," which - you got it - is the children's chart. For the under-12 set, there's a choice of fried chicken, fried scallops, fried shrimp or chopped beef steak for $325, served with fries and cole slaw, beverage and dessert; or for $2.50, there is a hamburger or fried fish sandwich, with slaw, fries and drink.

The rundown for bigger people includes just about everything you'd like in seafood, from broiled bluefish or rockfish at $5.95 to a combination of shrimps, scallops and deviled clams at $6.95, the shore dinner (samples of the works) at $13.95 or the more modest Mariner's Seafood Platter at $6.95. Steak and tail goes for $9.95 and there are lobsters for you-ask-how-much.

As you might expect, there's a "landlubber" list, too, starting with chopped steak at $4.95 and working up to sirloin strip or filet mignon at $8.95.

My wife and our 11-year-old son opened by sharing a bowl of French onion soup, at 95 cents, which was served in a little kettle with a slice of French bread afloat in the middle.Things were off to a good start.

The children's portion of fried shrimp was tailor-made for our 9-year-old daughter's intake - four fine double-fellows done in a light crisp batter. Our son waived his rights as a juvenile and got twice as many of these tender shrimp for more than twice the price, $7.25. But both orders got twice as many compliments as usual.

Maybe the lobster served to my wife for $8.50 didn't like being sauteed, but you could call this dish Lobster Akron for its rubbery consistency. We now know what it's like to chew on a pair of galoshes.

Continuing an effort to curb my intake and thus maybe slim down to the size of King Kong, I had a cute little 6-ounce rib-eye steak for $6.50.

The only dessert-taker was our daughter, who had one coming with her dinner anyway and who settled on chocolate ice cream. Then came a parents' coffee break while the offspring went to peek in the sprawling lounge next door, where a lively combo was blasting out everything from Scott Joplin numbers to "The Hustle" and "You Light Up My Life."

Then came the bill, which is on a computer form with a lot of pencil marks, looking much like your answer sheet for college entrance exams. Our tally came to $32.73 plus tip, which is not exactly low tide for a seafood spot. Down below in the garage, it took two stamps on our ticket from topside plus $1 to bail out the car and sail homeward.