Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 3 to 9 P.m.
Price range: Dinners, $4.95 to $13.95; children's platters, $1.95.
Special facilities: Parking. Customers in wheel-chairs accommodated. Outdoor cafe opens May 1.
Credit cards: American Express, Master charge, Visa.
Reservations: Helpful at lunch, not necessary in the evenings.
Atmosphere: Decor businesslike, but new owners have provided a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
When we called to make reservations, we discovered that the French restaurant we intended to go to no longer existed. It had been replaced by something called The Three Aces, which, for all we knew, might be a singles bar, a fortune teller's parior or even a tennis shop.
Not so, the pleasant voice on the other end of the line assured us. The Three Aces was a steak and seafood place opened last October by three young couples. We decided to try it.
It's stucked back behind some high-rise buildings in Silver Spring on the corner of Ramsey and Fielder streets. As we dashed from the parking lot to the front door through a downpour, we noticed a large courtyard that is transformed to an outdoor cafe in more agreenable weather.
The restaurant has a big lunch trade of people from nearby office buildings and this is reflected in the executive trappings - a pub in the back, heavy furniture upholstered in red "leather," sports prints on the wall. The effect is softened by dim lights, a fireplace and the relaxed, cheerful attention from the staff.
In the entranceway hang plaques showing the three aces. The missing one is the ace of spades, which apparently signifies things like pox upon your house, bum luck and so on. In this restaurant, the ace of spades can mean a free meal. Every customer gets to draw from a gigantic pack of cards - pull the ace of spades and dinner is on the house. We had no such luck.
In fact, we went our usual budget because it was a special occasion for an adult friend who joined us and for our oldest daughter, who was allowed to have anything she wanted. This usually translates into the most expensive.
However, most families will find the price reasonable for the amount and quality of the food. Entrees begin at $4.95 for broiled chicken up to $13.95 for lobster stuffed with back-fin crab meat. Most dinners, including several cuts of beef, are in the $6.95 and $7.95 range. Parents can afford to live it up a little because children's platters - hamburger, fried shrimp, chicken - come in at a surprisingly low $1.95.
All dinners come with a salad. I was ready for the usual iceberg-lettuce-with-three strings-of-red-cabbage, but The Three Aces had dealt us one with fresh romaine, jazzed up with a very passable house dressing.
My husband was quite content putting away his New York sirloin, $8.95. It was a fine, tender cut and came out medium rare, as requested. For beefeaters with daintier appetities, there is a Delmonico steak, $6.95.
I reveled in a large pile of Alaskan king crab legs, $7.50. King crab is unavailable commercially in any form but frozen, but if it's prepared properly, it's a grand feast. The Three Aces had heated it to the point of tenderness and large chunks of crab slid easily out of the pink and white shells. Naturally, you can slosh this around in melted butter.
I was sidetracked enough with the crab to ignore my baked potato, which unfortunately had been cooked and warmed for so long that the color had changed to a dismal gray.
Our daughter, who was taking full advantage of being an only child while her sister was out of town, vacillated between seafood and beef. Our friend bailed her out by offering to split "a pair of kings" with her. This is a rich meal of broiled lobster tail and filet mignon wrapped in bacon, $12.95. A plate fee of $1.50 for splitting a dinner raised the ante, but the nodding and groaning, and the fact that I never got a bite, indicated that it was a sure bet.
The Three Aces has other offerings, both plain and fancy: a prime rib, duck or crab Norfolk for $7.95, rainbow trout with mushrooms and shrimp, $6.95, even chopped sirloin a la Cincinnati Kid for $4.95. Appetizers include three types of soup, escargot, clams casino and stuffed mushrooms.
The grown-ups folded at dessert time, but the queen for the day held out for chocolate mousse, $1.50.
Our special dinner, including wine, soft drinks and coffee, came to $33.78 for the three members of our family.