One suspects that there's a high rate of repeaters among the people who patronize Wheaton's Anchor Inn. Not because the food is unusualor the decor exotic, but, on the contrary, because the menu is unvarnished, straight American and the atmosphere is comfortably familiar.

A mamoth sign on the roof beckons you to the Anchor Inn which opened some 20 years ago at the intersection of University Boulevard and Georgia Avenue. Inside, it is informal witn appropriate nautical touches and Muzak humming benignly in the background. The help is friendly in a down home way (when I suggested to our 8-year-old that she might surrender at least one fistful of the after-dinner mints she scooped from a bowl, the hostess came to her defense, saying, "Take all you want, honey." (She did.)

The menu is a safe one, listin items like steak, veal cutlets and fried shrimp which are proven favorites among the public. The most expensive entree is surf and turf (lobster and steak/ for $10.95 - most others are in the $5 to $7 range. The quality of food preparation varies from hapless to very good.

The Anchor Inn does well by children- their menu includes pork chops, fried fish, chicken or scallops for $2.50 and fried shrimp for $2.95. Our youngest daughter wanted to try soft shell crabs and although they were not listed ont he children's menu, she was able to get a smaller platter with two crabs for half price, $3.25.

After we convinced her that you do indeed eat the entire crab, shells, claws and everything, she decided that soft crabs were pretty good, but hardly in the same league with a steamer. In this case, the crabs were sauteed properly but they were small and not very meaty.

my husband's crab imperial, =6.95, was almost perfect except someone got carried away with the chopped celery. Otherwise, it was rich and creamy and loaded with big pieces of crabmeat.

I lhad similar success wiht my scallops Norfolk, $5.75, a dish I rarely order any more because it usually arrives with the scallops cooked to strings or to the point where they bounce around your plate like superballs. The Anchor Inn's scallops were tender and seasoned sparingly so you could still taste them.L You get your money's worth - there were more than two dozen scallops in my serving.

our older daughter just turned 11 which eliminated her as a candidate for the children's menu. But she found a small top sirloin steak for $4.95 on the regular menu which was fine.

The Anchor Inn falls into the trap of many other restaurants -effort is plowed into the main dishes, but side dishes suffer. The salads looked tired, the green beans were overcooked and the baked potatoes apparently sat around in their tin foil jackets for hours, if notlonger. The Frenceh fries were adequate.

Lots of seafood items appear among the appetizers. Aside from shrimp cocktail and clams ont he half shell, you can get oyster stew, $2.25, crabmeat balls, $2.95, ro clams casino, $2.75. Desserts include pie for 65 cents, parfaits, 95 cents, and a special liquor parfait for $1.75.

The Anchor Inn is also open for lunch and serves sandwiches and salads.

Our bill came to $28.72, including tip.

The Anchor Inn. 2509 University Blvd., Wheaton. 933-1814. OPen 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Major credit cards accepted. Carryout service available. Reservations necessary only for large parties. Persons in wheelchairs cna be accomodated.