Atmosphere: Comfortable colonial. Price range: Adults, $4.25 to $9.25 for main course plus salad and bread bar; children, $1.95 to $3.95 for main course, baked potato and salad bar. Hours: lunch (soup and sandwich menu) 11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Special facilities: Steps outside restaurant make it inaccessible to guests in wheelchairs; on-street and county parking lot nearby. Reservations: Not available. Credit cards: Bank Americard andMaster Charge.
Our son has been a good sport. Through the thick and thin of Italian, French, Hawaiian, Korean, Mexican, Chinese and Japanese cooking, he's grinned and borne it when all he ever wanted was a broiled steak and baked potato.. When a boy spends his morning vacuuming the house, emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage, he deserves the dinner of his choice.
Sir Walter Raleigh restaurant in Bethesda specializes in steaks and salad bars and that seemed an appealing choice on a Sunday evening. The restaurant doesn't take reservations - a recording explains the menu and the first-come, first-serve policy - so we hoped for the best at 7 p.m.
We were told there would be a 20 minute wait for a table for five and that we could wait in the cozy fire-place room. Cocktails were served. My husband and I managed to squeeze onto the couch in front of the fireplace and have glass of wine and a bloody Mary. Our children and their friend commandeered a cocktail table and played penny soccer.
Our table was ready in only 10 minutes, and we were seated in the biggest of three dining rooms. It was large but nicely designed; we didn't feel lost in a sea of tables. Although several families with small children were there, the dining room had a tolerable noise level.
Once we looked at the menu we saw why so many families were there. For children under 12 - The Young Gourmets,' according to the menu - there was chopped sirloin for $1.95, sirloin steak for $3.50, prime ribs for $3.75 and lobster for $3.95. The adult choices were steak, roast beef, lobster and crab, ranging in price from $4.25 for chopped sirloin to $9.25 for lobster tails.
Our waiter took our order promptly. We wanted our steaks and roast beef cooked medium rare and served quickly. Meanwhile, he directed us to the salad and bread bar.
Four kinds of breads were on a tray, covered with a napkin and piping hot. We could cut ourselves as big a piece of as many of the breads as we wished and the young gourmets heaped their plates. The salad bar had lettuce with red cabbage plus bowls of cherry tomatoes, chick peas, cottage cheese, grated cheese, bacon bits, green pepper, beets, carrots and several dressings. What we appreciated most was the size of the salad plate: a large, dinner size, oval platter. It was nice to take a healthy portion of salad and realize it would't dribble off our plates as we walked back to the table. We found both the salad and the bread fresh and delicious.
When our main courses arrived we were stunned by the generous portions of meat on the children's servings. Our son's steak looked only a fraction smaller than ours. Our daughter had ordered roast beef, which was a generous slice of meat with an enormous bone. Our children's friend ordered lobster, but here the portion was small: One half of a lobster tail and a baked potato. All children's orders come with a baked potato, but baked potatoes at 65 cents each and sauteed mushrooms at$1.25 are extra for adults.
All the meats were cooked as ordered and served sizzling hot. Our leftocers were picked up by the waiter and carefully placed in a doggy bag. 'It's good for cats, too,' he told us.
Our children returned to the fireplace room to continue their game of penny soccer while my husband and I had coffee and shared a piece of cheesecake, which was good and priced at $1.25. The other desserts were sundaes, 50 to 95 cents, parfaits made with liqueur, $1.25, and ice cream cocktails, $1.85.
Five of us ate well for $30.60, including two drinks, two adult steaks at $7.25, coffee and one cheesecake.