Mon.-Sat. for lunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and for dinner, 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays, dinner only, 4 to 10 p.m. BankAmericard, American Express, Carte Blanche, Diner's Club and Master-Charge cards accepted. Reservations are disirable. Handicapped persons may need assistance with the front door, but there are no steps up to or inside the restaurant, and aisles are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Call 820-3332.

Recently when the children's grandmother came for a visit, we decided to take her out for a meal. Not for the usual double burger special - but for a real treat, linen tablecloths, napkins, carnations, the whole bit.

For our outing we chose the Iron Skillet, 4727 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. Not only is the food tasty and well-prepared and the service attentive, but also the place is located next door to a Gifford's ice cream parior - a big plus in the children's eyes.

Don't be misled by its homespun name; the Iron Skillet is not a cornbread and fried ham place. It's a fairly sophisticated restaurant with candles on the tables, waiters in black tie, a respectable wine list and moderately expensive food. It offers the kind of dining grandparents appreciate and at the same time an atmosphere where families with children are not made to feel conspicuous.

We arrived one Thursday evening at 6:15, without reservations, but we were seated immediately. Since our two-year-old was with us, we decided to skip cocktails and get on with the meal. The waiter brought us a serving of blue cheese and melba toasts, which the children devoured while we adults pored over the menu, which is printed on a skillet-shaped black piece of cardboard.

On the menu are twelve entrees plus a daily special called "Le Plat International." The entree includes a variety of dishes from "Le Surf and Turf" to duck a l'orange. Prices range from the $5.95 coq au vin to a $12.75 dish with the glamorous name of "Les Scampis a la Firenze."

All entrees include a good-sized saled made with raw spinach, tomatoes and lettuce topped with an excellent vinaigrette dressing. Potatoes, rice or pasta come with the meal.

There is no childrens menu. Instead, customers under age 12 are served somewhat smaller portions at half-price. Kiddie favorites such as hamburgers and french fries can be specially ordered.

We chose two appetizers for the family and gave everyone a taste. The $3.75 shrimp cocktail came with five enormous shrimp balanced around a little dish of spicy cocktail sauce. The $2.00 onion soup was outstanding - full-bodied, thick with onions and topped with a generous layer of melted cheese.

For the main course, grandmother chose the $8.50 duck a l'orange, which was stuffed with rice. My husband had the veal ($8.25) with a flavorful sauce "piccata" made of garlic, shallots, wine and lemon juice. I chose the calf liver ($7.25), which was tender, cooked just right and covered with a good brown sauce flavored with madeira. Our five-year-old ate his way through a child's portion of flounder stuffed with crabmeat and served with a light white sauce. The two-year-old had bits of everyone else's helpings.

Our waiter was very attentive to the children, even coaxing the little one to eat a piece of shrimp from the cocktail. It was a pleasent change from th hauteur one often encounters in waiters serving similar food across the river.

Some of the entress at the Iron Skilet are actually served in eight-inch heavy black skillets. Owner Alex Comninidis says he came up with the idea partly as a gimmick but also as a way to keep food hot.

By the time we had finished our main courses, our two-year-old had begun to act his age, so we turned our backs on the seductions of the pastry cart, paid our bill, $35.10 excluding tip, and moved on to Gifford's for dessert.