If you don't want to just sandwich something in before or after the show, here are some restaurants that cater to the theater crowd. Comments are excerpted from the most recent Washington Post Dining Guide.

BARLEY MOW 700 Water Street SW. 554-7320. Open daily. Pre-theater fixed-price menu ($8.95-$9.95). V, MC, AE. Reservations suggested. Full bar.

BISTRO FRANCAIS 3124 M St. NW. 338-3830. Pre- and post- theater, fixed-price menu ($9.95). AE, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar.

CHARLEY'S CRAB 1101 Connecticut Avenue NW (in the Connecticut Connection). 785-4505. Closed Sunday. 5-6:30 Monday through Friday, 10:30 to midnight Friday and Saturday, pre-theater reduced-price menu ($7.50 to $13.25). AE, CB, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking after 6 p.m. Music. Full bar service. A half-level below the street at the Farragut North Metro station, Charley's is a seafood department store, with high- fashion and bargain-basement selections, ready to outfit every member of the family. But like any department store, there are gems and shlock. Gems: Try linguine with clams; homemade pasta is thin and delicate, the clams -- chopped, unfortunately -- are plentiful. Mussels steamed in garlic "casino" butter are fat and fresh. Some dishes, however, are unredeemable; soups and sauces taste like textbook formulas gone awry. Chowder was a dense and murky mush, fishy from the pasty bits of overcooked fish. Clear away the shlock, and Charley's Crab is a pretty place to enjoy a good piece of fish.

CHEZ GRAND MERE 3057 M Street NW. 337-2436. Closed Monday. Pre- and post-theater fixed-price menu ($9.95). AE, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Music, Full bar service.

CLAUDE'S 9021 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg. 258-0405. Closed Sunday. Pre-theater fixed-price menu ($10.50). AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking. Private room. Music/dancing. Full bar service.

DOMINIQUE 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 452-1126. Closed Sunday. Pre- and post-theater fixed-price menu ($9.95). AE, CB, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking for dinner. Private room. Music. Full bar. The walls are crowded with wild game heads; the menu lists buffalo and rattlesnake and the daily menu carries bargain- priced pre- and post-theater suppers framing sumptuous expense-account meals. Dominique manages to maintain a balance between French restaurant and three-ring circus; one room has polyurethaned wood tables and murals keeping company with tapestries.

MAISON BLANCHE 1725 F St. NW. 842-0070. Closed Sunday. Pre- and post-theater fixed-price menu ($14.95). AE, CB, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free valet parking after 6 p.m. Private room. Full bar. If the White House across the street ran as smoothly as the Maison Blanche, we'd be in good shape. The dining room is spacious, quiet and plush, the service discreet and orderly. And from the kitchen issues carefully controlled French cuisine that is modern without being bizarre. The food looks pretty, and duck and fish entrees are in sprightly but never heavy sauces. Vegetable accompaniments are thoughtful, and dinner ends with a flourish of almond tuiles, cookies and good chocolate truffles.

PLACE VENDOME 6200 M Street NW. 333-6444. Open daily. Pre-theater fixed-price menu ($9.95). AE, MC, V. Reservations. Full bar. A restaurant can so suit its time and place as to succeed in spite of itself. And so Place Vendome, a glittery brasserie on the site of the old Rive Gauche, reeks of success rather than of garlic. Sometimes the food is not bad; other times it is as glorious as it sounds. Salads of art given indifferent finishing touches. Potentially outstanding desserts are handled with disrespect. It is one thing to get what you pay for, but, another to have something better waved in your face at the same time.

RIVE GAUCHE 1312 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 333-6440. Post- theater fixed-price menu ($14.95). AE, CB, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking. Private room. Music/dancing. Full bar. Rive Gauche is at the Georgetown Inn, where chef Michel Laudier presides over breakfast, lunch, dinner, late supper and room service. He moved the caret-tufted leather banquettes, the palace-scale chandeliers and unimpressive impressionist paintings to this new home some two years ago; he brought his gold-scripted leatherbound menus and his waiters in black tie. But the low ceiling has thrown everything out of proportion, the kitchen staff in doing too much, the service can be gnawingly slow. However, Laudier is keeping some prices low. Offered for the theater-goers: salad, choice of five entrees and choice of pastries for dessert.

1789 1226 36th Street NW. 985-1789. Closed Sunday. Post- theater menu. AE, CB, D, MC, V. Free parking. Private room. Full bar.

209-1/2 209-4 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. 544-6209. Pre- and post-theater fixed-price menu ($16). AE, CB, D, MC, V. reservations suggested. Full bar. The future is at 209-1/2. We hope. Small restaurant. Small menu. Everything fresh and pretty. Flowers to match the walls and maybe the dessert. Somebody who reads the best cookbooks and isn't reticent about mixing Middle East with Western Europe. High-quality ingredients, careful preparation, concerned service and something new among trademark dishes: filet mignon with leek bearnaise. While some things miss, others score: lacy zucchini pancakes, quality wines at fair prices, graceful flowers, after-dinner drinks of rarity, and something new on the menu each month. Soft-shelled crabs, pork chops, cold fish and fresh game hens as well as the filet mignon are this month's entree offerings on the theater menu.

THE VIEW 1401 Lee Highway, Arlington (in the Key Bridge Marriott), 524-6400. Pre-theater fixed price menu ($13.95). AE, D, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking. Private room. Music. Full bar. The view is marvelous. About The View, though, I have some reservations. This is Marriott's bid for the big time, a glamourous restaurant 14 stories up, with top-flight table appointments and stratospheric prices. Its cultured tone, however, doesn't always hide its Marriott accent. Lamb -- rare, thinly sliced -- was quite good, but its brown sauce tasted acrid, as if overpowered by packaged bouillon. Accompanying vegetables were good, more what one would expect at a Hot Shoppes. The menu is too short and too simple, the depth of talent too shallow, he attention to detail too lacking to justify such high prices. Enjoy The View by going for a drink. Offerings besides the lamb: chicken in champagne sauce or the specialty of the house each evening.