Open Mondays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays until 3 a.m., Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Street parking possible. Accessible by wheelchair. American Express, Diners Club.

Sidewalk eateries - which only began to blossom in Washington a little more than 10 years ago - have added greatly to the city's charm, not to mention the owners' table space.

But if traffic has been particularly exhausting all day on the street where you sit, the sidewalk atmosphere can be a curb on your appetite.

On a recent so-so evening for the air quality index and while half the family was away, the question of how the other half might live drove my 10-year-old son and me to a thriving clump of outdoor spots on Connecticut Avenue just up from the Taft and Ellington bridges.

On the dubious grounds of men variety, hanging plans, overhead fans and relative distance from the Metro construction site, we chose Garvin's Grill, where lots of people, including many children, were sitting.

What we failed to observe was that most of them were waiting for their food.

With approximately 1.1 waitresses for each 11.4 tables (it took a little time to figure that out, but we had plenty), you're not going to get that rushed feeling. You can just sit back and listen to the background radio music vying with the trucks and buses.

We began with a Coke at 60 cents and a bloody mary at $1.75. The Coke was fine and so, presumably, was the vodka before it got all mixed up in a sort of pickle-flavored, spicier-toward-the-bottom glass of tomato juice.

The menu at Garvin's does offer variety. There are soups, from of-the-day at 95 cents to French onion at $1.35. There are steaks from $5.75 to $7.95 and spaghetti from $3.50 to $3.95, each served with salad. There is chicken at $3.50 and chicken cacciatore at $4.50.

There are all sorts of seafood dinners, too, including a platter at $5.50, and quiches-Lorraine, mushroom or spinach - at $3.85 with tomato and fries.

My son settled on a large (eight-piece) pepperoni pizza at $4.25, though a reasonable appetite could settle for the four-piece model for $3. I ordered veal parmigiana, at $5.25, which came with a salad that I turned over to my voracious partner in exchange for a slice of the good pizza.

By adding oil, vinegar and considerable salt and pepper, he reported, an otherwise bland offering could be turned into "a mean salad" (translation: very good). The salad must have been the better part of my order, too, for the veal was more like a cheese-covered tongue of Army-issue oxford. Fortunately, it came laced with a generous serving of spaghetti.

In deference to the high cost of dentistry, we were content to eschew dessert, though there is a fruit-topped cheesecake listed for $1.50 and melon for $1.

Instead, while waiting for the check, we watched the passersby, who included several customers getting their own silverware and one in search of salad oil. Our bill came to $12.80 plus tip.