Open 11 a.m. until midnight during the week, until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday and Sunday, the doors open at noon. Parking available, credit cards accepted. Phone 354-4560
Part of the fun of Fantastic Fritzbe's Flying Food Factory hits you even before getting inside the restaurant. It's the delightful aroma of freshly made popcorn that wafts out as you open the door.
Fantastic Fritzbe's, a new restaurant located at 7050 Columbia Pike, Annandale, specializes in free popcorn, huge combination sandwiches, great pizza and, as its name implies, fun and nonsense.
There's a traffic light inside the entrance that blinks red, yellow and green all at once. "I don't know whether to stop or go," said our five-year-old, but then he spied the popcorn machine within, and he completely disregarded the traffic light's confusing commands to join the other children standing in front of the popcorn-spewing machine.
Guests are invited to munch "on-the-house" popcorn while they make their menu selections. And judging from the fact that Fritzbe's serves 500 pounds of popcorn a week, you can imagine that this takes some time.
Fritzbe's menu reads like a catalog. It is 12 pages of riotous sandwich and pizza descriptions, double entendre jokes and just plain nonsense (sauteed worms and toothbrush bristles aren't really available as pizza toppings.)
The four local proprietors say when they opened Fritzbe's, they hopes the restaurant would appeal to lunchtime business trade and the late evening crowd, but also families.
And on our recent weekend visit there, we did see couples with young children, teen-agers with their families or alone, groups of two or three young adults and a few older couples, all comfortable with Fritzbe's decor of tiffany shades and old movie posters.
The menu at Fritzbe's is basically divided into three categories - combination sandwiches, hamburgers and pizza. The sandwiches, which average around $1.50 (but can go as high as $5.35) are meals in themselves - various combinations of ham, chicken, pork, roast beef, bacon, pepperoni, lobster, crab, tuna, cheeses, chili, tomatoes and lettuce.
We hear the favorite is the $3.25 "Kinky Jinky," a three-decker club of beef, turkey, bacon, mozzarella, lettuce and tomato.
A favorite pastime at Fritzbe's is watching these incredible creations pass by. We saw one that we estimated was eight inches high.
Fritzbe's Follyburgers, almost as creative as the combination sandwiches range in price from 16 and a half cents for "The Empty Burger" (a plain bun smothered with zesty hot air) to the "Hero Burger" (ground beef, lobster, mozzarella, bacon, lettuce, tomato) for $4.45. Out of 20 hamburger combinations, half are less than $2.00.
Fritzbe's offers thin crust Sicilian deep-dish pizza with (of course) many available topings including yogurt and grapefruit on the "dieter's special."
They also offer French onion soup, foot long hot dogs, several main-course salads, and full dinners of lasagne, veal parmigiana, spaghetti and steaks.
You can tell that Fritzbe's is more than a fastfood family restaurant by the drink list alone.
In the way of beverages, there are several exotic juice-based mixed drinks, imported beer, draught beer (including Michelob), and wine, in addition to the usual soft drinks and milk. And they'll sell you a yard of anything - be it ale, coke or milk!
Families could get by for very little money at Fritzbe's if they study the menu carefully. A child's portion of spaghetti, for instance, is available for 79 cents. A hot dog, for those under 10 or over 65, costs 65 cents. Also, Fritzbe's is happy to share orders between children.
On our recent visit there, we had trouble deciding what to order. My husband and I and the children's grandfather who was visiting with us wanted to try the combination sandwiches, and our daughter had her heart set on pizza, while our young son, who had quickly downed two bowls of popcorn, wasn't concerned with eating at all.
We ordered our daughter the smallest pizza they had and it turned out to be large enough for us all to sample. We were glad. We rated it the best pizza we've had in Virginia.
For our combination sandwiches, my husband chose "The Raunchy Riviello" (steak, cheese, lettuce, tomato); Grandad ordered the "Peter, Peter, Peter" (roast beef, onions, green peppers mozarella, lettuce, tomato), and I chose the "Weightwatchers Wevenge" (lobster, ham, swiss cheese, bacon, tomato).
All were large enough to feed two people and were constructed of good quality, fresh products. Unfortunately mine didn't come to the table hot enough to provide the promised "melted cheese."
In this house of sandwich extravaganzas, our young son ordered a plain, dry hamburger which he dutifully ate so that he could order a root beer float. Our daughter enjoyed a double dip cone of Breyer's ice cream for her dessert. The adults had coffee.
Our bill, for the five of us, including twice as much food as we could eat, came to $19.95 plus tax and tip.