Perhaps you have a wondered when we might come up with a good French restaurant for the family.
Well, we have.
It's not that our town is short of culinary savoir faire, it's just that the feat is to find a place where the atmosphere is informal and the prices aren't to ooh-la-la.
We're indebted, therefore to a keen tipster friend on Capitol HIll for informing us that his neighborhood now boasts La Ruche, a younger sister of the namesake restaurant in Georgetown. We followed up on the lead and our advise, in a word is GO - it's a winner.
And when you do go, look carefully along Massachusetts Avenue toward 3rd Street NE, for there are no neon-streamers announcing La Ruche- only some tasteful lighting to contrast with the glare of the market next door.
Our foursome for this soiree - my wife and I, our voracious 10-year-old son and a delightfully adventuresome pal of his - had a bit of a wait to be seated, since La Ruche isn't exactly the D.C. Armory; it's two small floors, each with a cozy sprinkling of tables.
While waiting, we noticed that people around us kept disappearing and then returned, clutching litte brown bags. In the course of a conversation with one friendly regular, we learned that the beer and wine license hadn't yet made its way to La Ruche and those bags were packaged at a store across the street.
On to our table, which was across the attractively tiled floor on the ground level, to some seats near a large display counter filled with enormous fresh pastries.
There are still other tiles set in the center of each table top, which, along with a fresh carnation and a warm greeting from the waitress, sounded the right note for a noteworthy experience.
My wife and the boys began by performing team surgery on an artichoke vinaigrette, at $1.95. From the soups, I selected the legume (vegetable) potage, at $1.60, which was an extremely generous portion of a creamy-smooth zesty puree.
I could have finished the soup. I'm sure, had it not been for the two swift taste-buddies across from me: Give 'em a spoonful and they'll take a bowl.
But no matter: We must keep in condition for the good things yet to come. From the list of the day's specials, each in the $5-to-$6 range, my wife and our chose the Veal Cordon Bleu at $5.95 - and it superb. It is a melt-in-the mouth veal, coated in ham and cheese and surrounded by flying forks from all directions.
My selection from the specials was another delight: Coq au Vin, at $5.35. No rubber chicken this; soft pieces, falling off the bones int a rich sauce.
What's more, the vegetables here are not boiled bores that all too often accompany entrees. Our platters featured soft scalloped potatoes along with carrots that even the boys confessed were tasty. My order also included some perfectly browned rice.
Our son's friend, meanwhile, was happily demolishing half of a Croque Monsieu, a $3.15, which is a sort of French toast baked with ham and cheese. The other half of his Croque had been traded to our son for half of his veal and waivers on vegetables.
Now right about here is where you really should quit, for with these abundant offerings of fine, rich food you could leave very well two 80-cent hot chocolates for the boys, came to $28.67.
But if you were paying attention earlier, you will recall the big display counter with all those pastries and other deserts. And, hand it all, our party indulged. This sacrifice was solely for the benefit of curious readers, mind you, and from it comes this tip: Each pastry can be costly but each is really enough for two.
Thus, the boys, with one fresh strawberry pastry at $1.75 and a fresh raspberry model for oops, $2.50, wound up with more than any two normal diners should.
Similarly, the rich, bittersweet mousse au chocolate that my wife and I shared for $1.35 was marvelous, but it was the biggest mousse this side of the tundra. All of these sugary postscripts, along with two coffees, brought our bill to $35.
But knowledgeable family managers can easily come in under that figure, given the portions and the quality.
La Ruche, 239 Massachusetts Avenue, NE. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., closed Sundays. Street parking seems to be no problem. Ground level is accessible by wheelchair. No reservations. No credit cards, but personal checks are accepted, with proper identification.