The best reason for choosing the Bounty Bay Seafood House over the all-you-can-eat seafood chains is that not as many people know about Bounty Bay. Therefore, there's almost never a wait.

The Bounty Bay, not yet a chain, opened its first seafood house eight months ago in the Barcroft Plaza Shopping Center on Columbia Pike in Annandale. A second Bounty bay opened in Fredericksburg three months ago.

Bounty Bay mimics the family seafood chains in menu, price and method with all the inherent advantages and drawbacks.

The main advantage is one of economy - seafood at affordable prices. The price of this seafood is lower than that of comparable home-cooked seafood.

Children under six are offered four different free dinners (trout, flounder, clams or fried chicken), and children from six to 12 the same meals for $1.75. Adults may choose from six different all-you-can-eat dinners ranging from $2.79 for trout to $5.99 for steamed shrimp, in addition to several seafood platters that average around $4.50. All entrees are served with french fries, cole slaw and deep-fried cornbread "hush puppies." The disadvantages are the generally "mass produced" atmosphere of such places and the deep-fried breading covering almost everything from the ubiquitous "hush puppies" and French fries to the entrees.

Only one of the "all-you-can-eat" entrees on the menu is not breaded and deep-fried. It is the steamed shrimp, which, by the way, is the most expensive of the all-you-can-eat entrees. The king crab legs, although not listed on the menu, are available in unlimited quantities for $6.90 per person. This only proves that breading costs less than seafood. Our family enjoyed both of these entrees on another occasion and recommends them to anyone with an aversion to fried foods.

The decor at the Annandale Bounty Bay Seafood House might be described as nautical if it weren't for the plywood castled entrance. There, a moat and drawbridge lead into fishnet-festooned chambers with two-toned blue walls roughly plastered to resemble oceanic waves. Our 5-year-old remarked that the restaurant reminded him of the inside of the submarine ride at Disneyland and we have yet to determine if this was intended as a compliment.

But our children liked it there. They liked the informality of the place and the friendliness of our waitress. Our son liked his plate of fried clams and French fried potatoes and our 8-year-old daughter liked her order of fried flounder. They both liked the all-you-can-drink 35-cent soft drinks and the coupons for 10 per cent off at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store next door.

Even though the Bounty Bay is obviosly an imitation of seafood chains, we think they do some things a little better.

For instance, the cole slaw at Bounty Bay is crisp and flavorful, not watery as is so often the case. And my husband's entree of fried chicken was spicy, crunchy and delicious. Also, the lightly breaded oysters on my seafood platter were cooked just right.

Some of the other items, such as the clams and scallops, on my $4.99 seafood platter fared almost as well. The deviled crab, which came served in a crab shell, was good but contained too much bread crumbs as "filler." Only the fried flounder, undercooked and tasting of iodine, was a real disappointment.

Our bill at the Bounty Bay, including a couple of Michelob draft beers, came to $14.11 plus tip. A trek next door to Baskin-Robbins with our 10 per cent off coupon added an additional $1.57 to our evening's bill for a total of $15.68 plus tip.

Open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 until 9 p.m., and until 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday, noon until 8:30 p.m. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Parking available. No credit cards or checks. No reservations accepted. 941-5400.