Atmosphere: Casually nautical.

Price Range: Entrees from $3.19 for fried shrimp and fish to $8 for brolled whole Maine Lobster.

Special facilities: High chairs and boosters available. Accessible to the handicapped, with special parking spaces.

Credit cards: Master Charge and Visa.

Reservations: None accepted.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 11 P.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

There's something about snow and icy winds that make our family hanker after seafood. Maybe it's because we're reminded of crab feasts and shrimp boils that are part of our annual summer pilgrimage to the South Carolina beaches. Whatever the reason for this mid-winter craving for shellfish, we found it amply satisfied at the Red Lobster, an unpretentious and pleasant family restaurant.

We visited the Red Lobster in Alexandria. But the menu and, we understand, the nautical decor are the same in Red Lobster's other two Northern Virginia locations.

We arrived about 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening with two hungry little boys in tow. Since the place at the time was virtually empty, we were seated immediately, a booster seat was brought for our 3-year-old, and Dan, our waiter, came to take our drink orders. Dan explained that the children would get free cokes if we ordered drinks. With that kind of come on, how could we refuse. We ordered a half-bottle of white wine for $1.25, which we managed to nurse through part of the meal.

For an appetizer, we decided to share a plate of 12 boiled shrimp in their shells, $3.19.The shrimp, which were fresh, came with a tasty coctail sauce, and we had a grand time picking them out of their shells.

The appetizer menu also includes seafood gumbo, 79 cents; a dozen oysters on the half shell, $1.99, and Alaskan crab leg coctail, $1.79.

The Red Lobster has a child's menu for children 10 and younger offering flounder, fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried oysters or a hamburger patty for $1.29. Our little one, the party pooper, decided to eat chicken. Our older boy, whose tastes and appetite are fast outgrowing most children's menus, and I split something called a Fishermans Platter, $5.99. On it were fish, scallops and shrimp and some tiny morsels that looked like miniature lobster tails plus hush puppies and crab cake. My husband ordered the Sampler Platter, at $5.99, which had the same kind of broiled lobster tails plus fried shrimp and Alaskan crab legs. The lobster are called Icelandic lobster, but they seem very much much like something I've seen called rock shrimp. The meat is sweet like lobster, but the body of the beast looks like a very thick-shelled shrimp.

The platters came with a very good, freshly made cole slaw and some rather ordinary, fairly heavy hush puppies, the meal's only disappointment.

For those who like the real thing in the way of lobster, Red Lobster has the Maine variety for $7.99. You can also get a whole plate of the Icelandic type for $5.79, or broiled rock lobster tail for $6.89.

There's steak too - steak and lobster tail for $7.39, a steak and shrimp stuffed with crab meat for $5.99. A number of shrimp dishes are available, $3.69; shrimp creole, $3.79, and fried shrimp, $4.39. Combination platters range from $4.39 to $5.99, depending on how much lobster and shrimp is included.

By the time we had finished our meal, the restaurant had begun to get crowded. We ordered coffee, 35 cents, and asked for our check, a very resonable $20.07 without tip but including our wine and milk for the boys. There are no desserts at the Red Lobster, which seems to me to be infinitely sensible.

They do what they do very well. After all that delicious and well prepared seafood, a dessert would be anticlimactic.