If it ever stops raining, you can celebrate with lunch or dinner in the great outdoors. Here, as reviewed in the last fall dining guide by Phyllis C. Richman, Carole Sugarman, and Mark and Gail Barnett, are some area restaurants that serve on sidewalks or in courtyards. The letter codes for credit cards accepted are: AE, American Express; C, Choice; CB, Carte Blanche; CC, Central Charge, DC, Diners Club; MC, Master Charge; V, Visa.

AMERICAN CAFE -- 227 Massachusetts Avenue NE. 547- 8200. L, D $3.95-$8.95. Credit cards: MC, V. Reservations accepted. Full bar service. The American Cafe does a lot of things right. They've found the right way to make creamy boozy drinks, and soups like cream of chicken with chunks of chicken or gazpacho with a hot pepper sauce bite. They've found the right sources of smoked turkey and ham, and fresh vegetables like summer-red tomatoes and crunchy asparagus. And they can turn humdrum salads like coleslaw or eggplant provencale into something new. There are some things that American Cafe does the wrong way; overcharging for a few overrated sandwiches that leave you half-full; confining a crab pie to mostly spinach; destroying an Austrian apple special by overdosing it with cinnamon. The Capitol Hill branch is more glittery, but both have the same menu.--C.S.

AU PIED DE COCHON -- 1335 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 333- 5440. L $4.95-$7.95, D $6.95-$8. No credit cards. No reservations. Full bar service. Au Pied de Cochon is, year after year, one of the busiest eating places in Georgetown. Essentially, it is a semi-fast food restaurant, with modestly priced onion soup, omelets, quiches, crepes, salads and daily special platters. The food is French, the service harassed and harassing. Dry, stiff french fries and ratatouille steam-tabled to a near paste accompany most platters. But you get a lot of food for the money, particularly for Georgetown. For all its faults, the place is more varied and satisfying than an American counterpart is likely to be. Homemade leek-and-potato soup, a big bowl of salade nicoise, a pate or an omelet with herbs and a cup of espresso may be slower and more expensive than burger-fries-and-Coke, but worth the difference.--P.C.R.

GARY'S -- 1800 M Street NW. 463-6470. L $5.50-$10.50, D $9-$17.50. Cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations required for lunch, suggested for dinner. Free parking after 5. Full bar service. Don't let the plush carpeting instead of sawdust on the floor fool you into thinking that Gary's is anything other than a good steakhouse. The environment is dim, spacious and silken, but steak and roast beef are the heroes here, plus seafood pasta as a first course. Gary's is also known to grill very good fish, and the menu stretches to veal, rack of lamb or pork, and seafoods. Watch out for the over-fancy. Sauces are not a strong point, and our last stuffed fish was all the worse for its stuffing. Steaks are thick, well-marbled and crusty. Don't tamper with success -- enjoy large portions of good, simple food, a kind of Palm in a velvet cocoon. --P.C.R.

IRON GATE INN -- 1734 N Street NW. 737-1370. L $3.75- $8.75, D $5.95-$9.50. Open daily. AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested for dinner. Full bar service. There aren't many restaurants that can score equally well on food, environment, service and value. The Iron Gate is one of the few. Located in a handsomely renovated old stable, it offers Middle Eastern food at a reasonable price; two can have a full dinner here with wine, tax and tip for about $30. Hummus and baba ghanouj dips (with chickpeas and eggplant, respect ground lamb to cracked wheat that's high enough for flavor. The dishes with solid lamb -- couscous and mauzat khrouf -- are generous, the meat moist, flavorful and tender. Desserts are first-rate. If you like baklava restrained and buttery, you'll love it here. Walnut cake is a gem. --M.G.B.

LA BRASSERIE -- 239 Massachusetts Avenue NE. 546-6066. L $3.25-$7.50, D $6.95-$16. Cards: AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service. It is hard enough to maintain a restaurant's quality year after year, but to improve it is heroic. La Brasserie started as a small cafe focused on its pastry; it has spread upstairs and outside, expanding its menu and ambitions. Along with quiches, egg dishes, salads, meats and seafoods, the daily sheet now includes "la Cuisine gourmande," the chef's inventions. They are intriguing: shark with watercress or parsley, a pate of goose liver, rabbit or duck breast. Watercress coulis under the shark may taste more of water than cress, but the fish is perfectly moist. One night the rabbit was cooked dry; the duck and bacon with hot vinegar was a delightful combination but too sharp with vinegar. Yet one is eager to return. The carpeted upstairs room is softly lighted and creates a sense of quiet. Service is concerned. And any restaurant that goes to the trouble to smoke its own salmon -- and does such a good job -- merits attention. Old favorites are still there: fish soup under a puff pastry cap and the thick, rich cream brul,ee. Consider the chef's inspirations for dessert, like strawberries in hot caramel.--P.C.R.

L'AUBERGE CHEZ FRANCOIS -- 332 Springvale Road, Great Falls. 759-3800. D $15.50-$18. Cards: AE, MC, V. No reservations. Free parking. Full bar service. If Washingtonians could design their own restaurant, for many it would be an overgrown cottage in the country with fires burning in the winter, fresh air wafting in the summer. It would serve French food of city sophistication but serve seasonal fruits for the pastries, hearty winter stews and light summer seafoods. Service would reflect personality without overbearing friendliness. Prices would be moderate. And the wine list would include whatever one felt like drinking at the moment, from a fruity vouvray to a burgundy of celebrated vintage. That is L'Auberge Chez Francois, and that is why it is so difficult to get a reservation. Flawlessness is not necessary to success; Chez Francois can turn out an ordinary soup, a dull chicken in wine sauce. But then there will be the silkiest salmon under a two-inch souffle, a savory steak au poivre, sweetbreads in puff pastry with a dark sauce of special depth. And the handwritten menu always has surprises. Pastries are a specialty. From the basket of breads (including good garlic bread) to the coffee, the fixed-price meal is one of quality. --P.C.R.

LE GAULOIS -- 2133 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 466-3232. L, D $2.50-$14. Cards: AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service. Whoever said a restaurant couldn't survive on good food alone hasn't waited in line at Le Gaulois. It breaks the rules of French restaurants: prices are moderate, but it serves a wide and ever-changing variety of dishes as elaborate as at restaurants twice the price. Its service is polite and pomposity would be as unfamiliar as a frozen french fry. Nowhere in Washington can you dine so well in an elbow- to-elbow room of so little charm. But the charm is in the calves liver with julienne of vegetables and artichoke puree, the tangy rice salad, the lamb with flageolets. Certainly there's a miss here and there -- chicken breast stuffed with stringy crab and fish pate that tasted like gefilte fish -- but from the well-seasoned and homemade soups to the tarts in crisp sugar crusts, Le Gaulois is one of the best bets for your money in Washington.

MAN IN THE GREEN HAT -- 301 Massachusetts Avenue NE. 546-5900. L, $3.85-$5.95, D, $4.50-$14. Cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations for groups of five or more. Full bar service.

You never can tell what will be pulled out of the hat; half the time it's a lemon.The bar is always a hit, the sidewalk cafe always an attraction, but the menu is full of surprises, good and bad. Soups have originality but sometimes lack balance. Sandwiches and salads make the bulk of the menu. Some things work well: a stuffed vegetable of the day was a delicate mixture of nuts, vegetables and cheese with a topping reminiscent of Greek egg-lemon sauce; and the walnut pie is a knockout. Skip the fettuccine of the day, which has tasted as if yesterday was its day. And not all the desserts are made in-house, or are as promising as the walnut pie. Service is pleasant, but the kitchen can be slow. This is a noisy pub, and though the brass is polished, the kitchen work may not be.--P.C.R.

OLD ANGLER'S INN -- 10801 MacArthur Boulevard, Potomac. 365-2425. L $6.50-$11, D $11.50-$17. Cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking. Full bar service. The Old Angler's Inn, trysting place in many Washington novels, has upgraded its cooking. There is, they say, a French chef in the kitchen. He does, however, overcook lamb chops and allow an impressive platter garnished with three fresh vegetables to swim in butter. The menu emphasizes seafood, none overcooked. Daily specials form the bulk of the menu. Starting courses are standard and dessert choices likely to be limited to creme caramel and nutted chocolate mousse -- both very good. You will be fed rather well, if expensively, at the dim and romantic century-old inn at the end of a quiet country drive. You can eat on a flagstone terrace, have drinks from a deep sofa in near-darkness or climb the spiral staircase as narrow as a ship's hold. The only thing steeper than those stairs is the wine list.--P.C.R.

TABARD INN -- 1739 N Street NW. 785-1277. L $3.75-$6.95, D $8.50-$11.95. MC, V. Automatic 20 percent tip for six or more. Reservations for dinner only. Full bar service. For years Tabard Inn has had a garden for warm-weather dining and a cheerful indoor dining room. No reservations at lunch, no pretense, just an attempt at clever and eclectic fresh foods in a casual, clubby environment. Sometimes, though, the attempt has faltered. The kitchen management is new these days, with Oriental touches by way of California. Often experimental and usually -- nowadays -- successful, Tabard Inn shines brightest at dessert.--P.C.R.

TRIO -- 1537 17th Street NW. 232-6305. L $2.65-$6.50, D $3.50-$6.50. Cards: AE, C, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Full bar service. At the Trio, you get the most from ambiance and service rather than the food. Waitresses who have been there for 20 years still throw the silverware on the Formica, making you set the table. You eat from compartmentalized plates (a crescent shape for the pork chop, a round space for the mashed potatoes, a triangle for the green beans). You sit in red plastic booths or outdoor chairs and watch the neighborhood go by. The Trio serves any time of day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night) or any mood (pizza, subs, full meal, indoor, outdoor). For a mere pittance you get vegetable soup, roll and butter, roast fresh ham with dressing, cranberry sauce, potato salad and broccoli, a beverage and gelatin. At the Trio, you can relive episodes of "Hazel" or "Alice," without reruns.--C.S.

VAL DE LOIRE -- 915 15th Street NW. 737-4445. Prices: L $7.95-$10.95, D $7.95-$17. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Street and commercial parking. Full bar service. In a building that looks quite gallic, Val de Loire is no gastromic palace, but rather a nice little F wrapped in puff pastry are a few that come off well. The wine list is small but appropriate, and priced with restraint. The service is snappy and polished. --P.C.R.

AND STILL MORE

ALPINE RESTAURANT 4770 Lee Highway, Arlington. 528- 7600. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Free parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $5-$7., D, $6.95-$12.50.

ARMAND'S CHICAGO PIZZARIA 4231 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 686-9450. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $4.45-$11.85.

ARTIE'S 1120 20th Street NW. 296-7666. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. Commercial parking in back. Full bar service. Prices: L, $2.25-$5.95, D, $2.50-$7.95.

AV 607 New York Avenue NW. 737-0550. Credit cards: AE, C, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Full bar service. Free parking. Prices: lunch and dinner, $2-$10.

AVIGNONE FRERES 1777 Columbia Road NW. 265-7273. Credit cards: AE, C, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: breakfast, $1.75-$6.25, lunch and dinner, $3.35-$11.50.

BABE'S 4226 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 686-1000. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: L $.75-$6.95, D, $1.50-$7.95.

BLACK ROSE 1101 17th Street NW. 296-8075. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street and commercial parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $3.75-$6.25.

BOOEYMONGER 5252 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 686-5805. No credit cards. No reservations. Free one-hour parking in garage above restaurant. Beer and wine only. Prices: lunch and dinner, $.75-$3.95.

BOSS SHEPHERDS 1527 17th Street NW. 328-8193. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. Reservations for six or more. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $1.50- $8.90.

CAFE de ARTISTAS 3065 M Street NW. 338-0417. Credit cards: AE, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested on weekends. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $2.95-$11.95.

CAFE RONDO 1900 Q Street NW. 232-1885. Credit cards: MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $3.50-$9.

COLUMBIA STATION 1836 Columbia Road NW. 667-2900. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $3.50-$10.50.

COUSTEAU'S 1820 L Street NW. 296-1790. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street and commercial parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $3.-$8.

CURRY HOUSE 2603 Connecticut Avenue NW. 265-7344. Credit cards: AE, DC, MC, V. Reservations accepted. Street parking. Full bar service. L, $3.25-$7.50, D, $4.95-$14.95.

DANCING CRAB 4611 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 244-1882. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. L, $3.95-$11.95, D, $5.95-$12.

DA VINCI 2514 L Street NW. 965-2209. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC. Reservations accepted. Free valet parking for dinner only. Full bar service. L, $6.95-$9.95, D, $9.95- $14.95.

DOMINIQUE 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 452-1126. Credit cards: AE, C, CC, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations required. Free valet parking from 5:30 p.m. Full bar service. L, $6.95-$20., D, $8.95-$21.95.

THE FISH MARKET 105 King Street, Alexandria. 836-5676. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. Weekend reservations suggested. Two commercial parking lots on Union Street. Full bar service. L, $2.45-$4.55, D, $5.50-$6.95.

GARVIN'S 2621 Connecitcut Avenue NW. 234-7143. No credit cards. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $3-$9.95.

GUSTI'S 1837 L Street NW. 331-9444. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street and commercial parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $2.85-$8.75, D, $4.-$13.

IRELAND'S FOUR PROVINCES 3412 Connecticut Avenue NW. 244-0860. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations accepted. Full bar service. Prices: L, $3.50-$5.25, D, $5.95-$10.95.

LA FONDA 1639 R Street NW. 232-6965. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. Reservations for six or more. Free parking lot across the street. Full bar service. L, $2.50-$7., D, $4,95-$9.50.

MAGGIE'S 4237 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 363-1447. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. No reservations. Full bar service. Prices: lunch and dinner, $2.50-$9.95.

MARSHALL'S WEST END 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 659-6886. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations accepted. Street and commercial parking. Full bar service. L, $2.95-$6.95, D, $5.50-$12.25.

MAXIME 5300 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 244-7666. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Free parking in rear lot and across the street. Full bar service. Prices: L, $3.95-$8.95, D, $9.55-$12.95.

NAPOLEON'S 2649 Connecticut Avenue NW. 265-8955. Credit cards: AE, CB, CC, DC, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: D, $12.50-$16.95.

PETITTO'S 2653 Connecticut Avenue NW. 667-5350. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $4-$7, D, $6.50-$12.50.

ROMA 3419 Connnecticut Avenue NW. 363-6611. Credit cards: AE, CB, CC, DC, MC, V. Reservations for six or more. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $2.50- $5.50, D, $6.50-$12.

SAMANTHA'S 1823 L Street NW. 223-1823. Credit cards: AE, CB, MC, V. No reservations. Full bar service. Prices: L, $1.50-$5.50, D, $3.70-$9.25.

TAVERNA CRETEKOU 818 King Street, Alexandria. 548-8688. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Parking in rear lot. Full bar service. Prices: L, $4.25-$7.75, D, $8.50-$14.50.

VIET CHATEAU 2637 Connecticut Avenue NW. 232-6464. Credit cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Reservations accepted. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $1.95-$5.75, D, $6.75-$13.95.

WINDSOR McKAYS 4323 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 363-9350. Credit cards: AE, MC, V. No reservations. Street parking. Full bar service. Prices: L, $1.25-$4.95, D, $2.95-$9.95.