THE INN AT Little Washington has become such a legend in its own time that even people who wouldn't spend such luxurious prices for dinner would like a chance to see the place.
They'll have that opportunity, this Tuesday from 2 to 8. For the first time ever, the Inn is having an open house, a chance for the public to see its justly famed guest rooms, dining rooms and garden. The tour will be followed by tea in the herb garden, prepared by members of the Washington, Va., Trinity Episcopal Church.
Admission to the open house is $10, payable at the door, and all the proceeds will go to the church. Don't plan to stay for dinner; the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
EVERYONE AGREES that diners are interested in eating lighter. But Petitto's restaurant is banking on the counter-trend: an upsurge in desserts. This Connecticut Avenue Italian restaurant has opened a separate downstairs dining room, Dolce Finale, which serves just desserts, plain and fancy coffees and a long list of dessert wines and after-dinner drinks.
Desserts include a sumptuously dark chocolate truffle torte with a sauce that truly tastes of fresh raspberries. And the tiramisu could use a little more custard but otherwise is among the most flavorful in town. There are three flavors of that refreshing Italian version of sherbet, granita, as well as several kinds of cannoli and other Italian pastries. For diners caught between their desires to eat lightly and to satisfy their sweet tooth, there is a low-calorie, low-cholesterol peach chiffon with raspberry sauce.
The greatest -- and non-caloric -- pleasure at Dolce Finale is the opportunity to savor dessert and coffee outdoors, for Petitto's sidewalk cafe tables are available for dessert after 10:30 p.m., when the dinner business is waning.
ADAMS-MORGAN has about as many new restaurants as it can hold, Bethesda is bursting at the seams, Reston is cooking up a storm, and now Laurel is becoming a hot new restaurant location. This spring it became the site of Red Hot & Blue's second hit restaurant and it's one of Pasta Plus's two locations. Now the Silver Diner is set to open a branch there next week on Route 1.
PHILADELPHIA MIKE'S is still betting its money on downtown. This Philadelphia cheese steak specialist recently opened its third location at 1426 L St. NW; its reputation must have preceded the opening, for within a week the place was packed. At lunchtime 11 people were working full-steam behind the counter.
The Philly Style cheese steak, with its sweet pickled peppers, mushrooms, onions and plenty of thinly sliced beef on house-baked roll, is as irresistible as ever. The turkey is still freshly baked on the premises. But I don't advise anything so complicated as hot turkey with gravy, which is a mush of meat shreds glued with flour.
The lines may look daunting, but even at this new Philadelphia Mike's the service is so efficient that before you have time to worry about it, your sandwich is ready.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.