Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; closed Sundays except for Mother's Day and Easter Sunday. Accepts BankAmericard and American Express cards. Reservations a good idea. Restaurant accessible to wheelchairs. For easiest access, enter second side entrance which has no step and take elevator down to restaurant on lower level. Maitre d' advises reservation for wheelchair patrons since tables especially comfortable for those in wheelchairs are available.
With school out and report cards in, we thought we'd celebrate by taking our children out to a nice restaurant. I once had lunch at Carmack's and was so struck by its elegant decor and reasonable prices that I thought we should all try it.
It was a good thing I'd been there before because, even with an address in hand, Carmack's is hard to find. It's in the lower level of an office building at 8401 Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase, but we saw no sign outside the building or inside the main lobby announcing its presence. A small sign at the parking lot behind the office building noted that parking was available for Carmack patrons.
On the basis of memory, we headed for the circular stairwell in the center of the main lobby. Two-storey-high trees and plants reach up from the core of the stairway, making the entrance to the restaurant dramatic.
Based on our visit there at 7:30 on a Friday evening, the restaurant doesn't need an on-street marquee to keep busy. Almost all the tables were taken. We had made a reservation and were seated immediately. The maitre d' showed us to our table and told the children where they should sit.
The decor at Carmack's is Early American in the best possible taste. Highly polished wood tables gleam with silver and oversized stemware. There are four dining areas, all fairly small and intimate. The lighting is subdued with a candle on each table.
The room we sat in had a fireplace with a wood mantle, small prints on the wall and carpet on the floor. In two corners wooden cupboards with glass doors displayed cups and saucers.
Although we were the only family with young children we saw, we didn't feel out of place. Carmack's appeared to draw customers from the neighborhood. We were glad, though, that the children weren't in jeans this time out.
Carmack's menu has both dinner and a la carte choices. For $5.25 to $7.50, the dinner includes appetizer, main course, vegetable, salad, dessert and tea. (Coffee is 50 cents extra). The a la carte choices, which came with vegetable and salad, ranged from $3.95 for chopped sirloin to $9.50 for filet or lobster tail.
There is no children's menu and our children preferred the a la carte choices. Our son, 9, had London broil, for $5.50, which came with a light mushroom gravy, French fries and salad. The meat was tender, and he had no trouble finishing the portion. Our daughter, 11, tried the fried shrimp, at $6.95, which also came with French fries and salad. The batter for the shrimp was light and the shrimp were large and pleasantly ungreasy.
My husband and I both ordered full dinners. We started with Louisianna seafood bisque, which was almost as good as soup we've had in New Orleans.The salads came with a nice variety of lettuce, although the dressing was uninteresting.
My husband had the fisherman's platter, for $6.95, deep fried scallops, sole and crab cakes. Each item was better than the one before. Instead of French fries, he tried fried eggplant, which was also delicious.
I ordered calf's liver, at $5.25. To go with it I had salad and the fried eggplant, a hard choice since garlic-butter zucchini was also on the vegetable list. I am usually wary of ordering liver in a restaurant. It often comes out well done and tough. Carmack's served up a wonderfully seasoned piece of liver, cooked just right and accompanied by sauteed onions.
Desserts weren't the kind that appeal to children. We passed by the rum ice cream and had bread pudding and rainbow sherbet instead. For $1.50 over the dinner price we could have had cheesecake.
My husband and I shared a half liter of wine for $1.90; the children had kiddy cocktails at 75 cents apiece. With all that, plus 50 cents extra for coffee, our bill came to $28.55. We considered the tab extremely reasonable considering the quality of the food, the attentive service and the pleasant atmosphere.