In the early evening light the Olney Inn looked picture-postcard perfect: a large, gray house with gables, chimneys, freshly painted shutters, large paned windows and a circular drive. With relatives visiting from out of town, we wanted to dine out with a touch more elegance than our usual pizza parlor, so we took the drive into the country to the Olney Inn.
Evidently, a lot of other Washingtonians had the same idea because Olney Inn was packed on Easter Sunday with grandparents and infants and all ages in between. High chairs were in great demand; reservations, a necessity.
The inn is divided into several large dining areas, the rooms to the left furnished more colorfully than the ones to right. The tables were set with starched white cloths; the waitresses wore long, hooped, printed cotton dresses. Everyone, from the head waiter to the busboys, was smiling and gracious.
Dinner is price fixed - for $8.95 per adult and $4.50 per child, you get appetizer, entree, vegetables, salad, rolls, coffee or tea and dessert.
The holiday menu is smaller than usual with only four entrees offered. By the time we arrived at 6:30 they had already run out of Cornish hen, leaving us a choice of seafood Newburg, New York steak or country ham.
We started with cocktails - $1.25 for white wine, $1.75 for a bourbon old-fashioned, 50 cents for Mary Janes. Appetizer choices were chicken velvet soup or fruit cup. The fruit cup was ordinary grapefruit sections with canned pineapple, but the soup was smooth, creamy and nicely spiced. Salads were iceberg lettuce with a touch of red cabbage and were accompanied by fresh hot bread and nonsticky rum buns.
There was an inrodinate delay between salad course and entree. The waitress came over several times to apologize, finally explaining that one of the stoves had broken down. When our dinner arrived, we were surprised to see that though the children's meals were half-priced, the portions weren't half-sized; they were almost as big as ours.
Our visiting relative had the seafood Newburg, which she thought was quite good. My daughter and I tried the ham, which was nicely seasoned with raisin sauce and pineapple. My husband and son had steak. It wasn't a thick, hefty steak, but then neither was the price. The vegetables were green beans and boiled new or mashed sweet potatoes.
Dessert was a choice between homemade apple cobbler, coconut cream pie or pie or ice cream. Between the five of us we managed to have at least one of each and everyone polished off their modest portions. The coffee was delicious.
We rated the atmosphere as very pleasant and the food as simple, hearty fare. With children (under 12) along, we thought Olney Inn was a good value. The three-course dinner for three adults and my two children was $35.85. With cocktails, taxes and tips, the total was $47.60.
Credit cards accepted; ample free parking. Reservations advised for weekends. Accessible to wheelchairs (there are three shallow steps leading to the front door, but the restaurant personnel will help bring wheelchairs in.) Olney Inn is open noon to 3 p.m., 5:30 to 9 p.m. weekdays; Saturday, noon to 3 and 5 p.m. to 10p.M. for dinner, until 1 a.m. for entertainment; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.