Open 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Credit cards accepted. Booster seats and high chairs available. Free parking.
To visit the Blair Mansion Inn on the District-Maryland line in Silver Spring is to journey back to a time before the turn of the century when nearby Georgia Avenue was the 7th Street Road and all around were woosd and fields. The 1890s stone and frame mansion - never actually part of the Blair estate but built next to what was once that Maryland family's summer residence - is virtually the last remnant of the genteel rich and rural life that once characterized the area.
Now, all but surrounded by a Roy Rogers, a chain drug store and garden apartments,the Blair Mansion Inn remains an incongruous oasis of Southern dining on the urban scene. Its antique-filled interior is evocative of what was in its heyday a home for the wealthy descondants of the original 1685 charter holders.
The Swiss family Zeender has kept it that way since they bought it 19 years ago, than a mansion turned tourist home. We have been there twice as a family and on both occasions generally enjoyed the unique surroundings, moderate prices and good home cooking.
On a recent weeknight, we found ourselves sharing the large two-story restaurant with only a few other families and couples and with two parties, each of which had its own room.
We asked to be seated in the downstairs room that is set aside for non-smokers and had it entirely to ourselves. Nearby were a large antique organ and an old cash register. Above us was a Tiffany-style lamp. Framed fin-de-siecle photo portraits and an old wall telephone rounded off the period decor. Waitresses in white Victorian maid outfits fit right in.
We had to wait a while for our waitress while our son repeated, "I'm famished and I'm starved." Throughout the evening, service, to put it kindly, was leisurely. We were there for two hours, a pleasant interlude for two adults, a little bit wearing on a week-night with a child.
The waitress, who introduced herself by name, was pleasant and solicitous of our son. However, she did not point us in the direction of the salad bar, which was in the next room out of our line of sight, bring the proper portion of wine I ordered or correctly calculate our bill, charging us extra for our son's coke and ice cream although they are included with the children [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] . We were later told that she was new of the job.
The children's dinners (for under 10-year-olds) range from $1.95 to $2.95 and include soup or tomato juice, small salad or Jello, beverage and dessert. To help the children choose, the menu is illustrated with pictures of a pig, rooster, turkey, cow, shrimp and fish, as well as of several desserts.
Our son chose spaghetti "tipped with meal balls," as he put it. But when it arrived, he announced, "I hate spaghetti I'm not gonna eat it. I thought it was meatball pizza."
As usual, he got more mileage out of the salad bar, which we also enjoyed immensely. The wide selection included apple slices, cole slaw, cottage cheese, chick peas, bean salad, macaroni salad, apple butter, red and green Jello, lettuce, plain green peppers, hot green peppers, shredded carrots, black olives, onions, red cabbage, cucumbers and several dressings. Salad bar alone is $3.50.
I was well into my second helping from the salad bar before our entrees arrived. With our dinners came a bowl of four or five fritters, which our son found "delicious," baked stuffed potatoes and hot loaves of bread.
My wife had enjoyed a brandy Alexander before dinner. I had ordered a $1.25 "minicarafe" of Rose wine with my entree, but was mistakenly served a $2.75 half-carafe and two glasses. The wine was appropriately chilled, if more than we wanted.
With the salad bar and other extras that come with dinner, you can easily skip over the a la carte appetizers and soups. The menu is divided into dishes "From the Farm and Woodlands" (fowl, ham), "From the Plains" (steaks), "Form the Oceans and Bays" (crab. flounder), "A Touch of the Continent" (veal and lasagne) and "Meatless Specials."
My wife ordered the veal cutlet parmigiana ($5.95), which she said had too much breading and an inferior piece of veal. "I wouldn't recommend it, but I ate it all," she said. "I was hungry."
I had roast duck in orange sauce ($6.95) and thought both were excellent. First-time duck eaters should expect a lot more fat than meat, however, on this tasty water fowl.
For dessert, I had a small piece of home-made pecan pie. It was good but seemed a bit overpriced at $1.25. The rice pudding my wife had for 95 cents also seemed slightly overpriced but not so good, by her description. Our son had no complaints about his vanilla ice cream, to which he added a dash of soda.
My meal was interrupted by our son's ritual request to be taken to the men's room. The rest rooms at Blair Mansion Inn are decorated so whimsically they should not be overlooked. The men's room has an old-fashioned pump organ and a convex mirror that makes you look short and fat, as well as some slightly risque sayings and poems painted on the walls.
On the way out, we paused to play the dime "nickelodeon" piano player and 25-cent music box in the front foyer. The foyer also contains a 1915 grandfather clock, a piano that belonged to Woodrow Wilson's White House, and one of seven working fireplaces at the Inn.
Our family dinner for three came to $22.61 for food and tax, plus $3 for tip, a total of $25.61.