Dining and theatergoing usually fit into an evening as well as most men fit into their old army uniforms. And the bulges are likely to obliterate the opening curtain.

Particularly when the theater has a 7:30 or 8 p.m. curtain on a week night, the most sensible plan is to eat a light meal near the theater and fill your crevices if necessary afterwards.While there are many restaurants near Washington's theaters, they are primarily notable for their lack of distinction.Thus, I have sought restaurants where good sandwiches, salads and casual - meaning rapid - meals are available, close to the major theaters but not necessarily within walking distance. At each of them a light meal (and sometimes a heavy meal) costs less than $10, allowing leeway for a sundae in Georgetown afterward. Open Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. AE. No reservations. Prices: Soups, salads and sandwiches $1.25, to #.50.

A ragtag assortment of dining tables, chairs and benches sets the mood of this whimsical eating place. The walls are a gallery of local art. The waiters and waitresses look like gallery visitors, and act every bit as distracted. And the food seems to be what whoever is in charge happens to feel like doing. Often it is wonderful food; one day's cold cantaloupe soup deserved to be written in stone, and the oil-and-vinegar potato salad was a marvel. But the same day the cauliflower soup was cabbage-strong and starchy. There is a determined use of sprouts and brown rice, and the only meats to regularly appear on the menu are turkey and pate (actually chopped liver), both of them excellent. The trick is probably to avoid ordering dishes that are susceptible to strong nutritional claims. Even the carrot cake was dense and lacked any trace of sweetening. But for a salad or sandwich, for a lot of food at little cost, for an original setting near National or Ford's Theaters, d. c. space is worth remembering. And for an even more original setting for a snack, its next-door wine bar is a tiny tiled eatery and drinkery with a long list of wines by the glass and light foods to accompany them.