Atmosphere: Polynesian-Hawaiian

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Price range: Entrees from $2.65 to $3.95; sandwich $1.95 to $2.95.

Special facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs (through back door); high chairs available.

Reservations: Necessary for dinner and weekends.

Credit cards: All major ones.

Parking: Available on street (or take the subway).

Families who take exploratory rides on the subway may well find themselves in uncharted territory, as we did, with everybody getting hungry. My two children and I needed lunch badly when we got off the train at Silver Spring, but had no idea where to eat.

We noticed the Luau Hut from the elevated platform, within easy walking distance, and decided to give it a whirl. It was a lucky choice - dark, restful, and full of good-smelling food that made the kids willing to experiment.

The food is Polynesian-Hawaiian, and so is the decor, with masks, bead curtains and so forth. Our table had one big, throne-like chair, so we scuffled a bit about who got to sit in it. (I won.)

The menu looked adventurous, but we were up to it. My daughter, 10, found just what she had been hunting for - shrimp tempura with egg roll and fried rice for $3.65. My son, 7, decided on the special of the day, which was shrimp with lobster sauce with egg roll and fried rice, $3.25. Both lunches included soup and make-your-own salads.

I chose the mysterious po-po platter, which was really an appetizer: "combination of cho cho, tempura shrimp, sparerib, crab Rangoon served with flaming hibachi" priced at $2.45. Although the waiter cautioned me that this wasn't very big, I reasoned that I could snitch something from the children. And that hibachi sounded like fun.

Choosing wasn't easy, because the Luau Hut has a large and enticing menu. In the appetizer section alone, there were chicken livers tempura, for $1.45; egg rolls, $1.45, andthe sliced barbecue pork, $1.55, as well as separate orders of all those items on my po po platters.

Entrees are grouped under Luau seafood specialties, Polynesian combination platters and Luar specialties. Nookoo nookoo tempura turn out to be codfish fillet, $2.75, and there's bulgogi, a Korean dish the Luau translates as fire meat steak, $3.25. Other possibilities include Tahitian treat, or shrimp, scallops and lobster for $3.75 and Oriental kalbee steak, $3.25. There are many more, and the dinner menu is longer.

Timid souls, or those with picky children, can settle for something like a ham sandwich, $2.35, or chopped sirloin sandwich, $1.95. There are also old standbys like chow mein, $2.65, and sweet and sour pork, $2.95, both with egg roll an fried rice. But doesn't fasipolli ani-ani, or Samoan steak, sound like more fun?

The waiter pointed out the salad bar and the soups. My kids served themselves salad makings like chickpess and shredded red cabbage that they would never have considered trying at home. The egg drop and shrimp soups didn't arouse much interest, but we're not big soup-eaters.

Main course arrived after a bit of a wait. Everyone was pleased. The shrimp tempura was crisp, the shrimp with lobster sauce was delicately flavored, and my po-po platter was indeed modest-sized, but it tasted splendid. My children helped me time things by counting the seconds as I cooked the cho cho in the flaming hibachi.

A bit of trading went on and each of us felt that the others had gotten good deals. The kids couldn't finish their egg rolls, which is uncharacteristic of them. We passed up coconut ice cream and cheese cake for dessert without a murmur; enough's enough.

Our bill for three people, including tip, came to $11.80. As we waddled out of the door, blinking in the bright sunshine, we were glad we had chosen the Luau Hut. But we felt rather sleepy on the next leg of our subway trip.