Atmosphere: Snazzy art deco plastic, chromes and neon.
Price range: Roast rib of beef for $2.10 to cottage cheese and peach salad for 80 cents.
Hours: Hot food, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; fast food, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
Special facilities: Elevators and wheelchairs for handicapped; high chairs.
Parking on the street.
Credit cards: No credit cards or checks.
The National Gallery has become one of our favorite places to go with young children. Besides the paintings and sculpture, there are free strollers, fountains and gardens to look at and lounge areas for a little noise and activity. Now there's a snazzy new restaurant with good food, high chairs, reasonable prices and even a glass of wine or a beer for mom and dad.
Actually there are two restaurants in the underground concourse between the gallery and its news building still under construction - an attractive art deco cafeteria and a more elegant and expensive table service area.
The cafeteria, where we ate, has an extensive selection of hot foods, delicatessen style sandwiches, cold salad plates, fast food and really good desserts.
My husband and I chose hot lunches from the four entrees offered. He took the cubed veal parmigiana for $1.75, two vegetables, Tidewater onions and broccoli at 45 cents each, and something called raspberry angel pie, at 70 cents, for dessert. The veal had a firm texture and good taste with lots of cheese and even a dab of chopped olive on top. In fact it was so goog I ordered it on our second trip.
The onions came in a rich cream sauce topped with chopped peanuts. But the pie was really special - light vanilla chiffon piled high over a layer of raspberry jam topped with whipped cream. A great choice for those who can stand the calories.
The beef liver with bacon I ordered was cooked a little longer than I like, but generally was good. My husband and I split a green garden salad for 65 cents. There was plenty for two - a good assortment of greens and respectable dressings. I also had a piece of excellent (even the crust) blueberry pie for dessert.
Our 3 1/2-year-old daughter decided to have a ham sandwich, for $2.10, made with canned ham, sliced and piled on a fresh Kaiser roll.
Her younger brother insisted on having his own hot dog, 85 cents, and the two of them shared an order of corn, a fudge-type brownie and a container of milk. On the whole, however, the fast food - including the hot dog, hamburgers, fries, sausage, fried chicken - seemed unappealing and overpriced.
But the bill for the four of us came to only $11.44.
On a second trip the children and I took Grandma along. She ordered the highest priced entree - roast rib of beef for $2.10 - and loved it. She also thought the mocha chiffon pie well worth the calorie splurge.
One of the least expensive lunches is a peach and cottage cheese plate for 80 cents, or perhaps a tea sandwich plat cents, or perhaps a tea sandwich plater - lime jello, fruit and cottage cheese with brown bread and cream cheese fingers for $1.80.
Drinks cost us 35 cents each for milk (chocolate or skim is also available), tea and coffe. Chocolate milk shakes cost 55 cents. Heineken beer is $1.60, Budweiser, $1.05, and a small bottle of white or red wine costs $1.55.
On the table service side of the room, pastry trays, espresso and capuccine, 70 cents, are available for afternoon breaks. Drinks here are more expensive and there is a much simpler but more elegant menu. Cheese, fruit, bread and wine for two costs $6.40. There were only three other menu items - quiche and crepes for $3 each, and an avocado and crab meat salad plate at $4.50.
Cafeterias are good places for young eaters. Service is no problem and you can pick up as much or as little as you need. But this place has an added attraction - beauty. A waterfall cascades behind plate glass from the street level above and although it is a little noisy, it looks great. Our kids were fascinated. The signs are neon, and the room has lots of chrome and heavy, boldly colored plastic tables and chairs. Just right for an art museum eatery.