JOE AND MO'S

You want your steak and eggs? You want your grits? Your dream of breakfast is a stack of pancakes 20 high or maybe 10 eggs and a monster of a sirloin? You want Joe and Mo's, where cholesterol is king and the omelets are made with three eggs. The room is quiet, comfortable and spacious; chandeliers above and carpet below make this nearly the only nonhotel dining room to serve breakfast in some elegance. Service is swift and only slightly forgetful; coffee is poured nearly before you are seated. And though the juices are only "fresh" rather than "freshly squeezed" and the home fries are soggy, the toast is crunchy whole wheat, the sausages have a European pungency to them, the syrup is maple and the pancakes are grand in size and quality. The menu is mainstream -- no new ideas, just the usual eggs, with sausage, bacon, ham, filet mignon or trout. But it includes good buttery grits and lox and bagels. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for the price of breakfast at Joe and Mo's, you also get to hang around with an on-site radio talk show. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. 659- 1211. B Mon-Fri 7:30-10 a.m. $5.50-$10. Closed Sunday. AE, C, CB, D, MC, V. J. W. MARRIOTT HOTEL,

NATIONAL CAFE

At first glance it seems merely a clever idea to have a Thermos-pitcher of coffee on the table at the National Cafe so that you can refill your own cup whenever necessary. Ultimately you may realize it is necessity, for agreeable as the servers are, trying to get coffee from them could be frustrating, given that it took me nearly half an hour just to get my credit card receipt. As far as the food goes, the National Cafe is doing a commendable job. The orange juice is fresh, the scrambled eggs are moist, the bacon is crisp and smoky and the hash browns are crusty. Even more surprising, the "Good for You" omelet ("cholesterol-free egg product filled with mushrooms saut,eed in margarine" with sliced tomato and fresh fruit garnish, plus toast) was more tasty than one might expect pseudo-eggs to be, largely because the saut,eed mushrooms were deliciously browned and plentiful, and the "eggs" had a moist, soft texture. Fresh fruit accompanies all the egg orders, apparently, and it is good fruit. If you like to start the day heartily, there is a $7 buffet of fruits, breads, cereals, meats, scrambled eggs and hash browns. At the National Cafe the setting is comfortable and the food is as pretty as the furnishings. All that needs to be spruced up are the timing and attention. 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 393-2000 x6765. B Mon-Fri 6:30- 11 a.m., Sat, Sun 7 a.m.-noon $2.95-$6.95; brunch Sun 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $11.95. AE, C, CB, D, MC, V. KELLY'S COUNTRY LIVING

The procedure i the same as at the downtown Bread Oven, even though they are no longer connected: You serve yourself croissants (soft and spongy, lacking flakiness), brioches (good ones but without topknots), or a variety of rolls, tarts or pastries. And you pour yourself coffee (fairly bland coffee). You can also help yourself to fruit salad or a boiled egg. Or extend your effort to the adjacent carryout counter for an espresso or cappuccino -- which is the best of the offerings here. Then you pay at the cashier and settle at one of the smooth wood tables to read your newspaper uninterrupted. In all, the food is innocuous but the dining room is country-style pleasant, and this is as sophisticated a breakfast as you are likely to find uptown. 4849 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 966-8200. B Mon-Fri 9-11 a.m.; continental breakfast Sat, Sun 9-11 a.m. 65 cents-$1.10; brunch Sun 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $6.95-$11.95. MC, V. KRAMERBOOKS & AFTERWORDS

Some breakfasts are meant to be eaten alone, and no place better suits them than the cafe in the rear of Kramerbooks. Except for the classical music, the room is quiet, and the small bare tables are comfortingly occupied by other lone breakfasters concentrating on the daily paper or a book they have just bought a few feet away. While the menu at breakfast has a spinach-cheese omelet, corned beef hash and quiche, somehow an uncooked breakfast suits: whitefish platter or nova and cream cheese with a toasted bagel. The quality of the fish is less than thrilling -- a pretty fishy bit of nova, in fact -- but there is plenty of tomato and red onion, and fresh orange juice, coffee or tea come along for a perfectly fair $6. If your bent is more continental, there are croissants, espresso and cappuccino. 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW. 387- 1462. B Mon-Fri 8-11:30 a.m., Sat, Sun 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. $2.95- $5.95; brunch Sun 8 a.m.-1 p.m. $7.50. AE, CB, D, MC, V. LA BAKERY ON THE HILL

Adjacent to La Brasserie is a tiny carryout for breads, pastries and La Brasserie's own cold dishes, and behind the deli counter are a few tables available for continental breakfast. The rear room is cute enough, with marbleized plastic tables and white chairs with print cushions. But amenities are few. You pour your own coffee (regular or decaffeinated) in plastic cups, and help yourself to danish or a croissant (plain, almond, blueberry, chocolate, strawberry or the like). The breakfast pastries are nothing special, neither flaky nor buttery, and the coffee is weak. So why bother? Because when spring comes you can sip your coffee outdoors and watch the Hill come awake. 235 Massachusetts Ave. NE. 543- 3840. B Mon-Sat 7:30-8 p.m., Sun 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m; continental breakfast $3. AC, DC, MC, V for bills of $25 and up only. LA COLLINE

A French brasserie that is priced like an American coffee shop at breakfast, La Colline is is perhaps the best breakfast bargain in town given its quality. The smoked salmon is pearly coral and of elegant character, yet costs a mere $4.25 with bagel and cream cheese. The fresh orange juice is only $1.25, and though the fruit cup tasted a little refrigerator-worn, it was all fresh and quite fancy for the price ($1.25) with its strawberries, melon and kiwi. The kitchen makes fine scrambled eggs and serves them with decent sausage, toast and coffee (now, that could use some improvement, or at least more body) for $2.95. La Colline is the Hill hangout in the morning, spacious and quiet enough for a power breakfast. My only quarrels, besides the Muzak, are the near-sleepwalking service and the greasiness of the hash browns. In all, it is a plain and good breakfast place, homey enough to serve Cream of Wheat, French enough to stock pain au chocolate and make omelets but otherwise not venturing farther than pancakes and french toast. 400 North Capitol St. 737-0400. B Mon-Fri 7-10 a.m. $1.50-$3.50. AE, CB, D, MC, V. MADISON HOTEL: MONTPELIER ROOM, LA PROVENCE

The quietest and smoothest of service, the largest of tables and the whitest of linens start breakfast luxuriously at the Montpelier Room of the Madison Hotel. On to the coffee -- excellent flavor and often refilled -- and fresh grapefruit juice. For your croissants the waiter passes very good strawberry jam, marmalade and apple butter. And the menu is wide-ranging -- omelets of smoked salmon and salmon roe, french toast of thick brioche, buttermilk pancakes with Amish sausage. But there seems to be a problem at the Montpelier Room: the difficult things they do well, but the simple things they do not. Swiss eggs were perfect scrambled eggs, moist and tender and layered, studded with near-melting cream cheese and fresh, lively chives. But with them came toast -- under napkins -- pale, limp and soft.

The same problem strikes La Provence, which is remarkably well-appointed for a coffee shop, with lamnated paperboard place mats and lovely flowered porcelain teapots. Here the service is rapid and efficient rather than languorous, and given the difference in price from the Montpelier Room, the food is quite good. Continental breakfast has good, fresh juice and choice of homemade (if small) breakfast breads, among them a light and buttery brioche and a sweetly rich danish. Coffee is strong and well made, frequently poured. And what other coffee shop has eggs benedict daily? Corned beef hash is even a fine value, a huge portion for $4.75, of very good corned beef and tiny dice of potatoes, cooked crisply (and a little burned) with a just-runny poached egg on top. The toast was better at La Provence, though it had better be, given that it adds $1.40 to the price of that corned beef hash. 1177 15th St. NW. 862-1712. Montpelier Room. B Mon-Fri 7-10 a.m. $5-$11.50; brunch Sat, Sun 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $19.50 (children under 12, $10). La Provence Coffee Shop. 862-1754. B daily 7-11:30 a.m. $4.26-$14.50. AE, D, MC, V. MARTIN'S TAVERN

Its being in Georgetown, a 50-year-old tavern reminiscent of Cambridge (either the one in Massachusetts or England), Martin's is the kind of place you can expect to run into an old friend taking a breakfast break from writing a novel. It has the dark wood and mellowed age of a literary hangout, waiters with decades of unflappable service in their demeanor and a menu of hearty tradition. Where else can you find a Hot Brown (open-face sandwich of turkey, tomato, Welsh rarebit, bacon, and parmesan) along with creamed chipped beef, eggs benedict (or topped with crab meat), and the usual french toast, pancakes and omelets? The only problem is that the food isn't half as good as the atmosphere. Portions of bacon and hash browns are enormous, but they've been served cold, the Hot Brown burned on the bottom, the french toast accompanied by cloying, artificially flavored syrup in little plastic bubble packs. And prices are not low -- a big, greasy breakfast can easily cost you $10, in full view of the $2 special at the Little Tavern across the street. Still, the coffee is good and the creative force seems to operate at Martin's Tavern no matter how soggy the toast. 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 333- 7370. B daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m. $2.75- $6. AE, MC, V. MAYFLOWER HOTEL, CAFE PROMENADE

Grandeur doesn't come any grander than the Mayflower's Cafe Promenade, with its overhead dome, gilt and crystal and huge bouquets of flowers. You are beckoned with a display of breakfast breads near the entrance, among them a delicious raisin- studded and glazed gugelhopf and cardboard-textured danish, as well as apple strudel with vanilla sauce. The menu is interesting, offering very good papaya, prettily sliced and garnished, to start (though its promised poppy seed dressing never appeared), and main dishes of the usual sort plus smoked salmon and bagels, waffles or pancakes with fruits or real maple syrup (says the menu), eggs benedict in single or double portion. Among the cereals are muesli garnished with bananas and oranges (but not enough nuts). Among the eggs are New Orleans-style, poached just right, bedded with good crab meat on a crisp english muffin and topped with a lavishly saffroned hollandaise, a creditable job except for the stale, hard fried potatoes accompanying. The Mayflower has nice touches including a buffet breakfast option at $9. But the service is erratic, tending toward absent- minded, and there is only so long one wants to contemplate beauty at the start of a weekday morning. 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW. 347- 3000. B Mon-Sat 6:30-11:30 a.m. $3.75-$12.50; brunch Sun 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. $18.50. AE, DB, D, MC, V. McDONALD'S

Okay, so you're treated as no more than just a mouth in the crowd. But for all its anonymity, McDonald's does fill your every everyday need. It serves you everyday food at everyday prices, fast enough to get you quickly to your everyday work or school. And it tells you everything you need to know about what you'll have to eat: photos of what it will look like, prices prominently displayed (in Spanish as well as English if the neighborhood warrants), nutritional information on the place mats. So everything is predictable. The orange or grapefruit juice is predictably cold, the coffee or hot chocolate predictably hot and decent, the Egg or Sausage McMuffin predictably firm and bland and filling. The new biscuits are predictably flaky and tender and the hash browns are predictably, crisply wonderful. What more could you ask, when all it costs you is a couple of bucks and a couple of minutes? Many locations. B daily 6-10:30 a.m. (hours may vary slightly). 69 cents-$1.60. No credit cards. MR. M'S

So what if the saucer for your cup of coffee comes 20 minutes after the coffee? It's only 40 cents and two times out of three it's good coffee. This lunch counter shares a kitchen with Mel Krupin's and often draws the same lawyers when they don't have time for leisure. The seating is at a counter, the service is fast and the menu is short but hearty, with prices so low they double your appetite. Eggs with home fries (nicely crisped ones) and bacon or sausage, omelets, griddle cakes or french toast -- nothing costs much over $2 except lox and eggs. The bagel with cream cheese and Nova Scotia lox may include second- rate lox and bagels of no distinction, but the portion of lox is enormous, the cream cheese is enough for a family, the bagel is toasted and the whole costs $2.25, or less than you might pay for the bagel alone at some fancier breakfast places. 1120 Connecticut Ave. NW. 331- 7005. B Mon-Fri 7:30-11 a.m. 95 cents-$3.75. Closed Sat, Sun. AE only. NEW ORLEANS CAFE

No, you can't get beignets at 4 in the morning in Washington, but at least you can get them at 8:30, in the ever-cuter New Orleans Caf,e, and you can watch them frying while you sip your authentic -- and delicious -- caf,e au lait with chicory. The caf,e also has a full list of New Orleans brunch fancies: eggs sardou, benedict, hussarde and cr,eole, pain perdu plus omelets with oysters and artichokes, red beans and ham, sausage and such. They are decent stuff, with runny poached eggs and tender omelets, crusty and herbed home fries, big puffy biscuits and chunky, spicy cr,eole sauce. But refined they are not; the grits can be rubbery, the beignets pasty on occasion. Service swings from motherly to absent-minded; you may have to speak up to get butter, coffee refills or the check. Of late the New Orleans Caf,e has become the morning community center, so clearly the prices -- hefty for a casual Adams-Morgan caf,e -- haven't scared off the neighborhood. 1790 Columbia Rd. NW. 234- 5111. B daily 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. $2.75-$7. AE, C, CB, D, MC, V. OLD EBBITT GRILL

As fancy as the setting is, the menu is pretty bare bones at the Old Ebbitt Grill -- eggs, omelets or griddle cakes. The omelets were cooked hard and chewy, the griddle cakes were bland and burned on our visit; and, along with the usual breakfast meats, that's it for the menu. And the kitchen doesn't do any more than the menu implies; the orange juice tastes freshly squeezed but the grapefruit doesn't, despite the menu's promise. The sausage is decent, the hash browns are crisp and fresh, and the coffee in a thick white mug tastes good and is refilled often. But the best that can be said about breakfast at the Old Ebbitt has nothing to do with the food: the room is quietly beautiful, the classic music is soothing and the prices are reasonable for such a handsome place. 675 15th St. NW. 347-4800 (recording), 347-4801 (direct). B Mon-Fri 7:30-11 a.m., Sat 8-11 a.m. 75 cents-$4.50; brunch Sun 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $4.95-$8.25. AE, CB, D, MC, V. RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL, JOCKEY CLUB

The dining room is warm and comforting dark wood, the banquettes are soothing red leather, the tables are set with cheerful red-trimmed cloths, the service is every bit as polished as the brass, and the grapefruit juice really is freshly squeezed. While the Jockey Club's menu is fairly traditional, it does range widely, with the season's fill of fruits right down to berries, stewed prunes and fresh fruit salad with yogurt or cottage cheese. There are oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and muesli on the homey side; eggs benedict, steak and eggs, shirred eggs and Scottish smoked salmon with bagels and cream cheese on the elegant side. And while the waffles are doughier than one would like, they come with walnuts, pecans or bananas in the batter, as do the pancakes, and the syrup is indeed real maple. All that and the fact that the coffee is excellent make the Jockey Club a standout among hotel breakfasts. 2100 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 659-8000. B daily 7-11 a.m. $6.50- $12.95; brunch Sun noon-2:30 p.m. $10.25-$17.50. AE, D, MC. ROY ROGERS

It is a fine but important distinction Roy Rogers makes when it designates its weekend breakfasts not as "all you can eat" but as "all you care to eat." That would be mighty little for me these days. Roy Rogers used to run McDonald's a close second for its breakfast fries, but now they are dry and oddly bitter. And the "crescent" rolls are actually round, besides being far greasier than english muffins. The eggs are on the rubbery side but truly eggs, and the American cheese and bacon are no problem, but those sandwiches ooze grease, from the rolls to the eggs to the bacon. Round it out with cellophane-wrapped danish and foil-topped orange juice, and breakfast tastes so space- aged that you yourself might feel prepackaged. Many locations. B Mon-Fri 7-10:30 a.m., Sat 7-11 a.m., Sun 8 a.m.-noon. 40 cents-$1.74; brunch Sat 7-11 a.m., Sun 8 a.m.-noon. $3.89. No credit cards.