Atmosphere: A pleasantly noisy and most informal French cafe.
Price Range: Thoughfully prepared entrees are mosly $4.25 to $5.25.
hours: Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Closed Mondays.
Special Facilities: Accessible by wheelchair, though the aisles aren't wide. Small children welcome, but the booster-chair brigade may not cotton to the fare. Parking, especially on weekends, is a game of chance that can go into overtime.
Reservations: No, just go early.
Credit Cards: No just go with the green. The odds are about the same as winning the daily double at Bowie on two straight days, but late one recent Saturday afternoon, we found a parking space right on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown - to the first try - and only steps from our targeted movie theater.
So when the matinee ended, we couldn't just drive away, poof, like that . Instead, we let our venerable Volvo be, and hoofed several paces down the sidewalk to Aux Fruits deMer, which is a French seafood cafe - a sort of sole brother of Au Pied deCochon, the management's place next door.
Even if seafood doesn't really fly in your family, don't leave us yet - there are other good things to eat here. For that matter, the menus both places are silimar in many pleasing respects.
Besides, you can't beat the superhokey decor of Alux Fruits, starting with what's got to be a 50-pound ceramic pelican in the window, a fish tank with one deadly poisonous fish doing live scenes from "Jaws," wooden birds roosting on various columns, portholes with phony scenes lit up behind them and a painting of a pig rooting around some clams and lobsters.
All of this engulfs a small sea of imitation-marbletop tables, each decorated with a wilted mum in a Perrier bottle. The four of us were led to a side table, where we held our collective breath and squeezed in.
With places for maybe 50 people and not much else, you'd best say "pardonnez-moi" or its local eauivalent before you start slicing into anything since it's easy to sink an elbow into the ribs of a neighboring diner. "It's so snuggy," whispered our 8-year-old daughter, "that when this guy next to me moves, I move."
Yet somehow it's all part of a friendly, noisy cafe scene where the waiters in black vests, open-collar white shirts and butcher aprons are flurrying about as a waiting line begins assembling by the door.
Over two Cokes and two Heineken's, we checked out the menu while pretending not to be listening to the couple to one side - predumably premeds - whose tete-a-tete was a discussion of their favorite skills.
To the soups, each one quite good: My wife's onion soup, at $1.95, once she got past about a half-pound of stringy, melting Swiss cheese and a crust done up in a sort of Rice Chex pattern, was a fine starter.
Our 11-year-old son had a generous oven-potful of excellent homemade spilt pea soup, at $1.25, while I was happy with a big bowl of vichssoise, also $1.25. Other starters included melon, at $1.25 or pate at $1.95.
The seafood specials of the day (none of which found a taker in our foursome) included rockfish: rainbow trout and grouper, each $5.25, or the chef's special, fresh maine lobster broiled with crabmeat, at $6.25.
Roast lamb with a big helping of fries and cole slaw, at $4.25, was our daughter's fancy - a dish prepared with care and devoured with abandon.
The fried shrimp platter, featuring five jumbo-doubles with fries and slaw at $5.50, earned a thumbs-up from our son. My wife's crab cake platter, at $4,50, also won critical acclaim, most notably for not being padded with assorted fillers.
Out of curiosity, mostly, I ordered a stuffed pork chop at $4.25. They're tricky to stuff, but this one was chubby enough to cram with a finely herbed breading.
Kids are less tricky to stuff, and by dessert time, ours were even talking about foregoing the finale. But that kind of talk died down when the offerings were considered: our daughter heard mousse and trapped one, at $1.50; and our son perked up at the idea of a strawberry tart, at $1.25, and it was a big idea - an 11 strawberry extravaganza.
The parents settled for some samplings from the kids, some coffee and the bill for the works, which totaled $33.58, plus tip.
By now, which was barely past 8 p.m., the line was filling out at a good rate. But in keeping with the mood of this place, everyone seemed to be in jolly spirits. Based on our visit, we decided that their good behavior would go well rewarded.