Foot-stomping music is sure to bring on a hankering for good country cooking -- the Southern kind that means rib-sticking, down-home dishes. Comments on the first four restaurants are excerpted from reviews by Phyllis C. Richman; the others have not been reviewed, but we are including descriptions of their menus. The letter code for credit cards accepted are: AE, American Express; C, Choice; CB, Carte Blanche; CC, Central Charge; DC, Diners' Club; MC, Master Charge; V, VISA.
FLORIDA AVENUE GRILL -- 1100 Florida Avenue NW; 265- 1586. B $1.75-$4, L & D $3.75-$5.85. No credit cards. No reservations. No alcoholic beverages.
You won't find the Florida Avenue Grill in the phone book, because its word-of-mouth keeps its few tables and long counter busy from early morning until closing time. The grill is an old-fashioned diner with Southern food served in enormous portions. For about $4 you can get a mountain of pan-fried chicken or ham hocks or spareribs or meatloaf shored up with two other mountains of vegetables -- cooked greens or cabbage, sweet potatoes or potato salad, beans or rice. Despite a tendency to oversweeten the salads and barbecue sauces, the food is very good, seasoned heartily with black pepper. For a light snack, you can get a quarter of a chicken between two slices of bread. And breakfast, with grits, scrapple, home fries and hot biscuits, is rib-sticking. The corn muffins -- crunchy with white cornmeal -- are even better. Cornbread like it's served here doesn't happen too often in a lifetime.
THE REGAL RESTAURANT/SALT & PEPPER -- 728 North Henry Street, Alexandria; 548-0468. B $2, L & D $3-$4. No credit cards. No reservations. Beer only while ABC license is pending.
Formerly a carryout called the Salt and Pepper, this establishment has moved down the street and become a full-fledged restaurant in the process. If it's anything like its old storefront-carryout days, the platters are among the greatest bargains in this area. Try the fried chicken, which has always been flour-crusted and juicy enough to demonstrate why southern frying is one of the wonders of the world. With it comes black-eyed peas or greens or red beans or -- the least interesting of the vegetables -- corn, plus heavy, lard-rich cornbread. Don't let the $3 price deter you. Big spenders might go for a $4 barbecued rib platter, the ribs not smoked but permeated with a salty, tangy, pepper-hot red sauce of distinction. Add a minced pork sandwich and creamy, pickle-spiked potato salad.
RSVP -- 401 M Street SW; 484-8900. L $3-$7; D $3-$15. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Full bar service. Reservations not necessary.
Black-tie waiters and waitresses, soft pink walls and upholstered chairs -- not the sort of environment you'd expect to be eating fried chicken in, but that doesn't make it less juicy or less crisp. The same goes for the spareribs: big meaty ones dripping with spicy-but-not-burning barbecue sauce and about to fall off the bone. RSVP does several down-home dishes very well: Fried sea trout is moist and sweet and lightly crunchy. And seasoned with chili powder and broiled, the fish is equally fine. Seasoning is not subtle here. Fried seafood, steak -- a decent one, nicely marbled -- and pork chops drenched in fried onions are among the entrees. Skip the mild-to-tasteless Virginia ham. Another of RSVP's assets is its choice of vegetables: cooked greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, potato salad and red beans and rice, among others. There might be some very good cornbread -- or soft white rolls -- in the bread basket. And the sweet potato pie is good, with some crunch to the crust and an undertone of molasses to the filling.
SCHOLL'S CAFETERIAS--1990 K Street NW; 296-3065. Also 1433 K Street NW; 783-4133. B up to about $2, L&D $3-$4.50. No credit cards. No reservations. No alcoholic beverages.
One of Washington's finest features is the Sholl's cafeteria duet: Foods are cooked in small quantities to avoid steam-table fatigue, and the quality and freshness of the foodstuffs -- with few exceptions -- are stunning at the price. At less than $2, you don't expect the veal cutlet to be more than a breaded vealburger, and cafeteria fried fish is bound to be overexposed to heat. Nevertheless, they are pleasant foods, accompanied by fresh vegetables, freshly made salads such as potato and cucumber, homemade biscuits, cornbread and doughnuts, ripe melons and other fruits, fine custards and puddings and famous pies. The food at Sholl's remains as satisfying and inexpensive as ever.
AND STILL MORE
BOB & EDITH'S DINER -- 2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington. 920-6103. B $2.10-$3.95; L & D $2.85-$3.95. No credit cards. No reservations. No alcoholic beverages.
Serves meatloaf, liver and onions, veal cutlet, pork chops, hamsteak, crab cakes, salisbury steak. Hommade mashed potatoes, potato and macaroni salads plus lima beans, green beans, black-eyed peas, succotash. And grits for breakfast.
BRAD'S CARRYOUT & DELI -- 1803 Rhode Island Avenue NE; 269-3754. B $.95-$1.85, L & D $2.75-$2.85. No credit cards. No reservations. No alcoholic beverages.
Primarily a carryout operation, but there are 10 tables. Chicken, pork chops, fried fish, roast beef and ham plus crab cakes and salmon cakes. Vegetables include collards, cabbage, green beans, mashed potatoes, yams, macaroni, rice and potato salad.
CHEF'S TABLE -- 4414 Benning Road NE. 398-6994. L $6.50, D $8.95. No credit cards. Reservations suggested for parties of eight or more. Full bar service.
The all-you-can-eat buffet is the attraction here. Entrees may include chitterlings, shrimp creole, barbecued spareribs, country ham with red-eye gravy, fried chicken and crab cakes. There is also corn on the cob, broccoli, macaroni and black-eyed peas plus a full salad bar.
THE COMUS INN -- 23900 Old Hundred Road, Comus, Maryland; 428-8593. L $3-$12, D $7.95-$18. AE, C, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service.
Baked and fried chicken, crab imperial, green beans, salad bar.
FACES -- 5626 Georgia Avenue NW; 291-6085. L $4.50, D $5.95-$13.50. AE, DC, MC, V. Reservations accepted. Full bar service. Faces, as much as a restaurant, is a gathering place for local politicians and businesspeople. Entrees include fried chicken, barbecued spareribs, crabcakes and fish dishes; side dishes include mashed potatoes, rice, collards, macaroni and stringbeans.
51 RESTAURANT -- 3207 Naylor Road, Silver Hill, Maryland; 423-9797. B $2-3, L & D $2-$7. No credit cards. No reservations. Full bar service.
Mainly a carryout, but there are 12 tables with service. Entrees include fried rabbit, catfish, spareribs, pizza and crabs. Peas, green beans, corn on the cob and potatoes are served.
NEW ORLEANS CAFE -- 1790 Columbia Road NW; 234-5111. B $1.35-$6, L $2-$7, D (Friday-Saturday only) $5-$11. MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service.
The accent is decidedly Creole here, and there are some homey dishes among the more sophisticated seafood offerings. Entrees include steamed crayfish (flown up from New Orleans), gumbos, shrimp bisque, stuffed flounder and a wide variety of poorboy sandwiches.
PENWICK HOUSE -- Route 4 & Ferry Landing Road, Dunkirk, Maryland; in Washington call 855-5388. L $3.50- $5.50, D $8.95-$13.95. AE, DC, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service.
The specialty is the Maryland platter, which includes a chicken breast stuffed with an herb dressing over country ham with scalloped oysters on the side. Among other entrees are broiled or baked local fish, Maryland fried chicken with cream gravy, crab cakes, pork chops with a fruit and nut dressing and barbecued spareribs. Dinners include soup, salad, fresh vegetables, bread and choice of beverage (excluding alcohol). Fresh fruit pies, pecan pie, rice pudding and syllabub round off the meals.
SOUTHERN DINING ROOM -- 1616 Seventh Street NW; 234-8511. B $2.25-$2.60, L & D $3.25-$4.25.No credit cards. Reservations accepted. No alcoholic beverages.
Lunch and dinner specials, which come with two vegetables and bread, include fried fish, pigs' feet, short ribs, barbecued spareribs, pork chops, turkey wings and legs, chitterlings and cube steak. Side dishes include collards, black-eyed peas, limas, string beans, okra, macaroni and sweet potatoes.
SUNSET -- 920 11th Street SE; 547-9626. B $.95-$3.25, L & D $2.75-$4.75. No credit cards. No reservations. Bar service.
Pan-fried chicken, crab cakes and barbecued chicken are among the lunch and dinner specials. Accompanying vegetables include choices such as potato salad, mixed vegetables, cole slaw and macaroni salad.
TASTEE DINER OF BETHESDA -- 7731 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda; 652-3970. B $1.35-$4.05, L & D $.75-$4. No credit cards. No reservations. No alcoholic beverages.
Breakfasts of ham steak, grits and homemade biscuits are favorites of Bethesda insiders. And hearty lunches or dinners of fried chicken, boiled ham and cabbage, macaroni and ground beef, barbecued spareribs, ham casserole, liver and onions, ending with homemade rice pudding and bread pudding.
TASTEE DINER OF FAIRFAX -- 10536 Lee Highway, Fairfax; 591-6720. B $1.95-$3.95, L & D $.78-$7.25. No credit cards. No reservations. Beer only.
The biscuits are homemade at breakfast. At lunch and dinner the ham and cabbage is the favorite, but you can also find meatloaf, baked or fried chicken, liver and onions, barbecued spareribs and homemade rice pudding.
TASTEE DINER OF LAUREL -- 118 Washington Boulevard, Laurel; 725-1503. B $1.75-$3.95, L & D $2.35-$7.25. No credit cards. No reservations. Full bar service.
The soups are homemade, as are chicken and dumplings, ham and cabbage, fried chicken, baked turkey and dressing, barbecued ribs, bread pudding and rice pudding and biscuits; for breakfast grits and creamed chipped beef.
TASTEE DINER OF SILVER SPRING -- 8516 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring; 589-8171. B $1.10-$2.80, L $1.25-$3.45, D $1.25-$4.75. No credit cards. No reservations. Beer only.
This local fixture serves pork chops, fried chicken, fried fish, barbecue sandwiches, roast pork and dressing, as well as side orders ranging from creamed corn and limas to home fries and kidney beans. For dessert, there's homemade pudding. Breakfast is in the grand old diner tradition.
219 BAYOU ROOM -- 219 King Street, Alexandria; 549- 1141. L & Br $4-8, D $8.95-$14.95. AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Full bar service.
This stone-clad pub on the lower level of 219 serves New Orleans specialities like barbecued shrimp, gumbo, jambalaya and a variety of sandwiches -- roast beef poorboy, oyster loaf and catfish sandwich.