Atmosphere: An informal neighborhood seafood spot (with fare for the land lubber, too). Price range: From fried perch at $3.50 to a variety on entrees under $6, and on up to steak at $3.50 Hours: Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to midnight. Closed Sundays. Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchair, though entrance does involve some steps. Seating for small children can be arranged. Street parking possible. Reservations: Not necessary. Credit cards: No.
In scooting around our town for feast-food rather than fast-food, there are times when the two kids are perfectly game to research-and-destroy all sorts of exotic dishes - and then there are those nights when they're just enormously hungry for an old familiar staple.
So when a pleasant-enough-looking restaurant says it offers fried shrimp, fresh fish, steaks and chicken, we can figure on a solid "yes" vote on the first ballot.
That's what drew us to the Pompano Restaurant on Kennedy Street NW; just off North Capitol Street, where they don't cook the food - they "prepare it to order," a distinction worth noting.
For those like us who are unschooled in fish nomenclature, the pompano is indeed a fish - and at this place you can eat one for $4.50 or just look at his portrait on the wall as we did.
To round out the nautical motif, the walls also sport two green illuminated circles with unidentified fish painted thereon, some harbor-view wallpaper and a few marine scenes on the corners of some of the 11 different-sized tableclothes in the room.
Though it may have been the peak hour in other eateries on a Saturday evening, we must have hit this one in the mid-shift, for we had a wide choice of tables - in fact, all but one.
With a child-warming smile and voice to match, the hostess took care of the greeting and seating, noting somewhat apologetically that, because everything is done to order, things would take a while. It was good of her to let us know, though we never would have noticed.
With two milks and two mixed libations to take us through the reading period, we chose to waive the appetizers, tempting as they were. You can go from a 56-cent tomato juice to a cup of clam chowder for 65 cents, oyster stew for $2.75, oysters or clams on the half-shell, also $2.75, or steamed clams for $3.
On, then, to those entrees: For the children, the big word was shrimp - eight fat double ones, fried up and served with french fries and either a tossed salad or cole slaw, for $5.95.
Our 11-year-old son also sought permission to embellish this impressive display with a side-order of fried onion rings, at 75 cents. His request was granted only after negotiators reached agreement on a sampling provision covering other members of the family. The best part about these rings was that they had been done in a fine light batter, our heavy-hitter noted.
Meanwhile the hostess was quick to notice that our 9-year-old daughter was lunging for liquids in a sudden effort to douse a raging tongue-fire caused by the shrimp cocktail sauce. Sympathy and a bottle of ketchup did wonders.
Now stand by, if you will, for the evening's headliner - the crab imperial that was set before my wife. Her exclusive report (since nobody else tried it) was that this impressive portion, at $7.95, was beautifully spiced to give the dish a nice slight kick.
Since I am pretty much the chicken-of-the-seafood-tasters in our family, I checked out one of the Pompano's dry-land offerings.Oh, all right - so what if some of us just happen to like fried chicken? Know, please, that here it was a perfectly fine choice, tender and moist. For $3.95, it comes with whipped potatoes, bread and butter and your choice of string beans or peas (I don't know about the string beans, but be advised that the peas are those babies that grow in cans).
The other unseafood offering, by the way, is a 10-ounce broiled strip steak with baked potato and tossed salad for $8.50. But if you're a true fish fan, you may want to try the fried filtet of perch for $3.50, the broiled filet of sole for $3.95, flounder stuffed with crab meat for $5.75 or four crab meat-crammed shrimp for $5.95. There's also a combination platter for $6.75.
We mustn't forget to put in a word here about the back room, which is a complete seafood counter where fresh fish are put on ice daily for carryout customers. You can call ahead, too, and choose a take-home order that can be readied while you're on the way over.
In our particular Pompano circumstances, the bill came to $29.43 plus tip. As we headed for the door, we were warmly exhorted to return - a suggestion that, on basis of this visit, won't prove the least bit burdensome to accept.