Atmosphere: Small-town Arizona-Mexican fmily restaurant.

Price range: From taco and tortilla appetizers for $1 to $2 to dinners at $2 to $3.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Facilities: Ground floor, accessible to the handicapped Seats about 60.

Reservations: Not needed and not taken.

Credit cards: Cash and checks only.

When two officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came to Washington from an Indian reservation in Arizona several years ago they couldn't find fresh tortillas - not even for the annual Arizona State Society dinner here, which they help prepare.

So they began making their own tortillas and tacos for state society dinners and friends and then for a few Mexican restaurants in the area. Now they are manufacturing 50,000 dozen fresh corn tortillas a week, 10,000 dozen flour tortillas and uncounted thousands of tacos in their Herndon Tortillas Factory - a former telephone company office. The tortillas go to restaurants, supermarkets and the factory's little nearby restaurant of the same name, which opened three years ago.

Our two boys grumbled at the 25-mile drive from Washington to the Herndon restaurant but soon were molified with constantly refilled bowls of taco chips, which we squirted with a mildlyhot chile pepper sauce.

The pepper sauce is the first thing on the menu you notice. In fact it's all over the menu because patrons of the restaurant apparently have a hard time hitting the taco with the squirter and reading the menu at the same time.

But the restaurant is informal, with peanut and feed sacks on the walls, and nobody seems to mind.

The red and green peppers for the pepper sauces that adorn almost everthing, in addition to the menu, are shipped in fresh from New Mexico. The corn for the tortillas (the Mexican equivalent of the crepe) is grown locally, dried and stored. no preservatives are used in any of the foods, according to Gene Suarez, one of the Factory's founders who bustles around the restaurant nightly after he leaves the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

To help guide us through the maize of corn tortillas, enchiladas, tostadas, tamales, quesadillas and burritos - since some of us didn't know the difference, and still don't - we brought with us a Sante Fe, N.M., family who did.

Our collective verdict, including the votes of four children who sampled everything except the beer, was that the products of the Tortilla Factory taste fresh and home made and that the chile sauces were not too hot after all.

Our youngest son at first gasped that the Texas chili was "too hot to handle" but said later he liked it. Those who ordered dinners said the Spanish rice and refried beans were bland but nice - they are supposed to be, as an antidote to the hot dishes, our Senate Fe friends said.

Especially popular at our table, where things were shared, were quesadillas (soft flour tortillas baked with cheese on top), which disappeared first, followed by the burritos (bean-filled flour tortillas) and enchiladas (baked soft corn tortillas with assorted fillings).

For eight people, without tip, our check came to $29,05, including two pitchers of beer and two rounds of sodas.