Atmosphere:Diner decor straight out of a past era.

Price range: Also from another era. Entire meals range in price from $2.85 to $5.75.

Hours: Service around the clock.

Special facilities: Parking is available. Wheelchairs might have problems with steps.

Reservations: Unnecessary.

Credit cards: All major credit cards accepted.

Since Bob's Diner advertises itself as the "original family restaurant," we were curious. Just what would the prototype of all those restaurants we've been writing about be exactly? Well, folks, it's just like the places my parents used to take me back in South Carolina during the 1950s. Plain cookin' (most of it pretty good), no frills, cheap - and plenty of country music on the jukebox.

And to make it all worthwhile, Bob's is a real diner, sitting in chromely splendor on Route 50, just west of Fairfax Circle. Oh yes, there have neen additions to Bob's since it opened 22 years ago. Bricks appendages just out here and there, but the silver nucleus is unspoiled. Inside, there are Formica boothes, and a long counter with the inevitable pies displayed in glass paneled cases. (More about those pies later.)

We visited Bob's one Sunday evening, slid into a booth and began studying the menu, while our 6-year-old perused the jukebox selections, available at each table in one of those individual jukebox terminals.

Bob's specializs in simple food: sugar-cured ham, 2.65, baked chicken, $3.45, meat loaf, $2.85, fried shrimp, $3.65, and roast prime rib at $5.75, plus other items too numerous to mention.There's also a children's mennu, featuring spaghetti, hamburger, roast beef or turkey. Children's dinners run from $1.95 to $2.75 and include milk and dessert.

Our 3-year-old settled on the "Davy Crockett," a hamburger dinner from the children's menu. The older boy ignored the children's fare and ordered the butterfly shrimp which arrived all hot and crisp, nestled in a paper napkin-lined plastic basket. The shrimp, atleast those I could steal, were sweet and very tasty. My roast beef as just was tasty, too, but my husband's halibut steak, $3.65, was dry and overcooked. The vegetables were the meal's real disappointment. Our baked potatoes had been around for awhile, and the peas were overly salted and far from fresh.

However, the hot, feathery, homemade rolls more than made up for the inadequacies of the vegetables. And we really hit the jackpot with dessert.

Before we ordered, we asked if any of the pies were homemade.

"They all are," replied the waitress.

Well then, said we, we'll try the coconut cream pie and the cherry cobbler.

The coconut was good - creamy, rich and full of coconut. But the cobbler was great - not too sweet witha a faintly winey taste.

We gobbled it all up to the strains of "Teddy Bear," our son's jukebox selection, and asked for the bill, a very reasonable $20 without tip.

Bob's Diner also has a fancier part - a brick addition called Bob's Beef House. It's a wee bit pricier and fancier. But basically, the menu is the same.