Atmosphere: A nice place for families.
Price range: Moderate; complete dinners between $4.25 and $6.95.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Credit cards: American Express, Bank Americard, Mastercharge.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Special facilities: Booster and high chairs available. Accessible to the handicapped.
The unsuspecting might never think to look for a bit of Budapest between Queen Bee Coiffures and A-1 Cleaners in a small shopping center off Route 50 in Falls Church. But for 10 years, the Little Europe has held its Hungarian own there, serving up the cuisine where paprika is king and seeing that diners who come to the table leave stuffed with spatzle, goulash and potato pancakes.
The result, according to Eve Molnar who runs the restaurant with her husband, is that Little Europe has attracted a band of customers who are fiercely loyal and who will brook no unfavorable comparisons with the metropolitan area's other three Hungarian restaurants.
There are some special touches at Little Europe that recommend it, but the first-time customer should know that some of the best food served there is not on the meny. For instance, regular customers know that Hungarian potatoes - thin slices deep-fried into a homemade potato chip - can be had for the asking. And the best desserts, a delicious plum cake and an exotic poppyseed pie, appear nowhere on the menu.
Mrs. Molnar explained that the desserts aren't always available on week nights, and her regular customers know to ask about the secrets she's hiding in the kitchen.
In addition, Little Europe is fancy enough - with linen tablecloths and fresh daises on the table - to convince the children to remember their best manners, and relaxed enough that parents can breathe easy when the children forget them.
And the prices are certainly within range of even a large family's budget. For between $4.25 to $6.50, there are a wide range of hearty dinners including traditional Hungarian dishes such as goulash, stuffed cabbage rools and wiener chnitzel of American choices of chops, steaks, roast beef or seafood. Dinners include a green salad and vegetables. Chilren's portions are offered at $2.95.
On the nighet we visited, I broke my own rule of not filling up on the starters and ordered a bowl of bean soup (95 cents). My husband, who is dieting, passed up the appetizers and stoically watched as his wife and son devoured the pumpernickel and rye brought to the table. Next came the soup, a heavy spicy version that was good, but too filling, and our salads. The salads were crisp greens tossed with a light sweet-and-sour house dressing.
I realized my overordering when our combination plates ($6.50) arrived heaped with saugages, goulash, sutffed cabbage, spatzle and green beans. The dinner received mixed reviews. My husband liked the goulash, but I thought the paprika was overdone. I liked the sausage, but my husband thought the spicing was underdone. We both liked the stuffed cabbage rolls. Our son settled for a side order of potato pancakes and apple sauce, which we all ate and liked.
Since our waitress said I could take the uneaten portion of my combination plate home, we agreed to taste some of the desserts: a rum punch cake and dobos torta (both $1.25), good, but on our next visit we'll stick with the plum cake.
The entire dinner minus tip came to $21.16.