Atmosphere: Relaxed, warm

Special facilities: Accessible to the handicapped; booster chairs. Facilities for parties of up to 40 people.

Reservations: Needed for groups of five or more.

Credit cards: Cash and personal checks with ID, only.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturdays, 4 p.m. to midnight; Sundays, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays. When you are ready to treat the family to a special evening of gourment history and tastefully prepared food, the historic Oakland Inn in District Heights is the place to go.

The Inn, which opened in 1909, was one of the first establishments in Prince George's County to be granted a restaurant and bar license.It has become a landmark

The cavernous, red brick house, with its seven dining rooms and two bars, once was the home of restauranteurs Frank and Lena Stoffl, who took in boarders and several all their meals family style.

Today the Oakland Inn is operated by the Stoffl's daughter, Helen Ragione and her husband, Jimmy, who still prepare meals from the authentic German recipes of her parents. The continuing tradition of family-style service provides a refreshing alternative to the usual restaurant.

When we arrived one recent evening, a friendly hostess led us through several dining rooms - some decorated with hand-hewn beams and basic early American decor - to a cozy area with a fireplace.

In one corner, several people were huddled around a television set watching a football game. At several tables around the room, diners quietly worked their way through the meals as the flickering candles on each table helped produce warm, soft lighting.

When we looked over the menu, we were attracted right away to the array of vegetables served in communal dishes with each family dinner. The hot vegetables include home-cooked potatoes, corn and string beans, and the cold dishes offered are pickled carrots, beets and coleslaw as well as a dish of olives and celery.

My wife, who is partial to seafood, decided to try the seafood dinner, a large plate which includes shrimp, king crab salad, scallops, filet of haddock, and a crab cake for $7.75.

Our girls, ages 2 and 5, usually waste food if we order two separate dishes for them. Instead, we ordered on children's chicken dinner to share, at $3.25. The dinner came with two large pieces of chicken - a connected thigh and leg, or wing and breast - and, of course, the family-style vegetables.

I started with king crab salad, $2.75, as an apetizer. The large scoop of salad on a bed of lettuce went fast when I told my wife and the girls how good it was and they took several samples.

For my main course, I ordered the Oakland Inn's special sirloin steak, broiled in natural juices and served with sauteed onions. The steak, at $12 was a large, tender cut of beef - actually more than enough even for my enormous appetite.

By the time the full meal was served, the true meaning of family-style service came sharply into focus. There was more than a dozen dishes on our table.

The Oakland Inn's seafood, chicken and steak dinners are standard items on the menu and are served daily.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, the menu also includes sauerbraten, a German dish of marinated beef served with sweet and sour gravy, potatoes, dumplings and red cabbage, for $7.25, and Italian spaghetti, meatballs, roll beef and Italian bread for $4.50.

For dessert, the Oakland Inn serves chocolate fudge cake and cheese cake, at $1 a slice, and block ice cream for 50 cents a slice.

Our bill, for the meal including dessert, hot tea and taxes, came to $32.03.

Dinner at the Oakland Inn, with its friendly personnel and home-cooked food is a pleasant experience - like visiting the home of a close friend.