TO MANY, the shopping streets of Adams-Morgan -- Columbia Road and 18th Street NW -- represent the most European section of Washington. Small shops, crowded streets filled with a variety of languages, an outdoor market on weekends -- and food.

Spanish and Caribbean flavors vie with ethnic Black, Italian, sproutings of the natural foods movement, American fast foods, Chinese and even French. The area is a true oasis for those who like variety at economy prices, and more and more Washingtonians have been coming to explore it.

The Food Section's tour of Adams-Morgan is limited to restaurants and stores with food to take out, either for eating as you stroll along the street, in a nearby park or to take home. There are several attractive restaurants that do not provide carryout service, including (on 18th Street) The West African Bao Bab, La Forchette and (on Columbia Road) The Potter's House. Nor is there ready-to-eat food at a trio of intriguing ethnic groceries: Mediterranean Food Products, 1802 Calvert Street NW, the Americana Grocery, 1813 Columbia Road, and Silver Spring Market No. 2, Marcado Latino, 1824 Columbia Road.

Most of the restaurants and shops that do feature carryout are open through the weekend and late in the evening, so it is easy to fit a visit into almost any time schedule. The range of choice represents a culinary cornucopia.Snack on prepared sandwiches, cakes or cookies from markets such as Fields of Plenty and Home Rule Natural Foods, or take out a full meal complete with rice and black beans from any one of a quartet of restaurants in the 1800 block of Columbia Road. These and other possibilities will be found in the walking tour that follows. It lists location, hours and food specialities at each place. A separate listing cites preparations of exceptional quality.

Buen provecho, buonappetito, bon appetit! COLUMBIA ROAD

Omega, 1856 Columbia Road, 667-9600, open Sun., Tues. through Thurs. noon to 10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. till 11 p.m.

All manner of reasonably priced food from places where people speak Spanish including Cuba, Mexico and Spain. Good enchilada with lots of chicken and little spice, strip beef with onions and peppers good with perfectly cooked rice, acceptable black beans. Everything on the extensive menu is carryout.

Columbia Station, 1836 Columbia Road, 667-2900, open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Bar-restaurant will arrange carryout. Good spiced shrimp. Small menu of sandwiches, salads, soups -- everything but soups, chili and drinks are carryout unless you bring your own container.

El Dorado, 1832 Columbia Road, 232-0333, open 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week.

Spanish and Latin American favorites, such as ceviche, tamales, picadillo, enchiladas.

El Caribe, 1828 Columbia Road, 234-6969, open Mon. through Thurs., noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.; Fri., dinner until 11:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 1 to 11 p.m.

A panorama of South American foods, plus some Spanish specialities. The carryout containers here are of high quality and so, in general, is the food. Prices are somewhere higher, though.

Fine ceviche, good gazpacho, roast port, lomo saltado (beef strips Peruvian style), chicken enchilada and roast chicken. Have a cup of cafe latino you wait for your order.

El Rincon Espanol, 1826 Columbia Road, 265-4943, open Mon. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun. 6 to 10 p.m.

A tiny place (nine small tables) with the food preparation area in plain view. (They plan to expand.) Hospitality may be their most important product, but the very reasonably priced food choices include meat pies (empanadas), Cuban roast pork, Spanish sausage sandwich and half-a-dozen or so daily specials and pastries.

The Cuban and Spanish sausage sandwiches are of high quality, as is the rice pudding.

Home Rule Natural Foods, 1825 Columbia Road, 462-5150, open Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; closed Tues. and Sun.

Fresh fruit, cold juices and goats' milk, cheese, pita bread, tofu spread, sandwiches made on premises and packaged Good Food Co. yin and yang burgers, Natural Nectar desserts.

Comet Liquors, 1815 Columbia Road, 234-7439, open Mon. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hot peanuts.

Al's Sub-Preme, corner Columbia Road and 18th Street, 387-2441, open Mon. through Thurs., 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Fri. and Sat., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The grill is greased for morning eggs, afternoon and evening subs or barbecue and the pizza oven is primed day and night. Pizza sold by the slice.

Best bet: A Philadelphia-style steak and cheese sub.

Avignone Freres, 1777 Columbia Road, 265-0332, carryout open 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. through Sat.; Sun. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wide assortment of sandwiches and salads moderately priced to expensive. Good chicken salad with large chunks of chicken on choice of bread; good potato and bean salad; extensive line of homemade pastry, cookies, ice cream, candies; good Napoleons.

The best-stocked deli in Adams-Morgan, with chilled mineral waters, hot coffee but no alcoholic beverages.

Carlos Gardel, 1759 Columbia Road, 797-8704, open noon to 10 p.m. Sun., Mon., Wed., Thurs.; till 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.

Bar and restaurant. Carryout anything on the varied menu of this well-priced Ecuadorian-Argentinian restaurant; good tacos, crisp well-filled, well-flavored filling; good empanadas with flaming hot sauce on the side. Pupusas (corn meal tortillas) with cheese or bacon are good.

Anything on the menu may be carried out except spirits, but you must bring your own container for some items.

Churreria Madrid, 2505 Champlain Street (off Columbia Road), 483-4441, open Tues. through Sun. from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Restaurant and carryout -- everything on the Spanish menu served in the restaurant is available in appropriate containers for carryout.

Hot, light, golden brown churros (Spanish crullers), dipped in sugar, freshly fried.Very reasonable -- four for 50 cents or 12 for $1. Good seviche and Spanish sausage.

La Central, 2503 Champlain Street, 667-9393, open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week. Grocery store, Cuban pastries, especially sweet potato, very sweet like fudge.

Cuban bread and Cuban cheese are good. Cold drinks, Cuban snacks and a few fruits.

Columbia Deli, 1772 Columbia Road, 483-7776, open Mon. through Sat. from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and Sun. until 4 p.m.

Groceries and inexpensive carryout food. Wide variety of sandwiches -- deli meats, cheeses, whole roasted chickens, salads, hot coffee, fruit, juices.

Chun Sun, 1764 Columbia Road, 265-9761, open Sun. through Thurs. from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.; Fri, Sat. till 11 p.m. Inexpensive carryout Cantonese food, good barbecued ribs.

Safeway, 1743 Columbia Road, and Giant, 1751 Columbia Road, supermarkets with ready-to-eat fruits, sweets, yogurt, juices, cheese, ice cream and snacks.

Lorenzo's Carryout, 1742 Columbia Road, 234-5676, open from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. every day; reasonable prices, most expensive carryout menu in Adams-Morgan. Good beef barbecue.

Pizzas, sandwiches, subs, soups, desserts, soft drinks and juices.

Cafedon (now called Cafe d'Or), 1721 Columbia Road, 667-1618, open from 11:30 a.m. until midnight Mon. through Sat.; Sun. from 3 until midnight.

Bar-restaurant with carryout sandwiches. Good open-faced avocado, tomato, onion, mushroom and sprout sandwich, good pork barbecue sandwich.

Metro Liquor, 1726 Columbia Road, 265-5066, hot peanuts.

Yin's Chinese Restaurant, 1654 Columbia Road, (no listed telephone), open from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. every day; inexpensive Cantonese carryout, acceptable barbecued ribs, menu almost exactly the same as Chun Sun; prices vary slightly.

El Gavilan, 1646 Columbia Road, 234-9260, open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except closed Tues.

Central American grocery with carryout Cuban pastries, cold beer, unusual soft drinks such as Mrs. French's vanilla, Coco-Rico coconut soda. 18TH STREET

Farm Boy Deli, 2100 18th St. NW, 667-9827, open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mon. through Sat. Carryout only. Breakfast and soul food, including ribs, minced barbecue, pork shop, panfried chicken, sandwiches, greens and other vegetables. Everything made on premises, so entire menu usually not available.

Beef short ribs, apple (and other) cobblers are outstanding.

The Home Food Store, 2216 18th St. NW, unlisted telephone, open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Beef smoke, half smoke, hot dogs and popcorn. Coffee.

Kalorama Cafe, 2228 18th St. NW, 667-1022, open for lunch from 11:30 to 3 p.m. and dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. Carryout is not encouraged, but available. Open-faced sandwiches and pocket sandwiches like falaffel are available along with the daily specials.

Fields of Plenty, 2437 18th St. NW, 483-3884, open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mon. through Sat.; noon to 5 p.m. on Sun. Fruits, juices, cheese and prepared vegetarian sandwiches, cake slices and cookies from Golden Temple, Shabazz, Laura's, Kalorama Cafe and others.

Negril Jamaican Bakery and Carryout, 2443 18th St. NW, 232-8555, open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Mon. through Sat.

Hot and mild Jamaican beef patties, curried goat and chicken, sandwiches and baked goods including coconut turnovers and plantain tarts. Beverages include Jamaican ginger beer.

Spicy hot beef patties are good; dessert pastries are for those with a real sweet tooth.

Millie & Al's, 2440 18th St. NW, 387-9752, kitchen open Mon. through Fri., 11 a.m. to midnight; Sat., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. to midnight.

Wide-ranging Italian menu with sausage and meatball subs, other sandwiches.

Combination pizza, with homemade crust and sauce, ranks with the best in Washington.

The Scoop, 2467 18th St. NW, 332-6931; open seven days, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

More than 25 flavors of excellent Gifford's ice cream, a trio of sandwiches, fresh-squeezed lemonade and frozen yogurt.

McDonald's, 2481 18th St. NW (at the corner of 18th Street), 462-9477. Open from 6 a.m. to midnight weekdays, Fri. from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sat. 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sun. from 7 a.m. to midnight. Big Mac's, Egg McMuffin and everything else you've heard so much about.

At this location, with the alternatives available, we'd just as soon eat coal in Newcastle. ADAMS MILL ROAD

La Casa del Pueblo, 1817 Adams Mill Road, unlisted telephone number.

A good version of the Cuban sandwich with a family-recipe sauce. Heated on an electric grill and wrapped in foil, it will stay hot for a long time.