Atomosphere: French country kitchen.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
Credit Cards: All major cards accepted.
Reservations: A good idea on weekends.
Special facilities: Parking lot accessible to the handicapped booster seats for small children.
When we first moved to Washington and lived in the city, friends suggested a drive into the country and dinner at Normandy Farms near Potomac Village. We have fond memories of that evening, and 12 years later, when we decided to make a return visit, we found that Falls Road and Potomac Village were no longer quaint and sleepy country road and town. But we found Normandy Farms still exuding its French country kitchen and relaxed family ambiance.
From the outside the restaurant looks like a Gallic country home.Ducks are on the loose near a pond in the front. Inside, there are wood beamed ceilings, fireplaces filled with copper pots, tables covered with red-checked tableclothes, antique sideboards and candles set in bottles that are well dripped with wax.
We arrived on a Sunday evening at 6.30 with another family whose two small girls found great pleasure in taking the packaged crackers off the table and feeding them to the white ducks wandering around outside. Our waitress assured us we shouldn't give their coming and goings a second thought.
"If there's one thing we don't get upset about around here, it's children. Families come all the time. We even had a newborn baby brought in in a big straw handbag," she said.
She provided our table of eight with two plates of cheese spread and two bread baskets of the crackers so we could nibble while we studied the menu. Although the menu doesn't list children's specials, we were told that certain entrees were available at half price and in smaller portions.
The menu has both dinners and a lacarte entrees. The dinner included soup and dessert and offered such main courses as frog legs, $4.95, Le Coq au Vin, $6.50, duck a la orange, $8.25; king crab meat, $8.50; shish keboh, $8.25, and veal marsala at $7.95. The shrimp dishes, prime ribs and rack of lamb which attracted our children's and my attention were on the a la carte menu.
It is never easy for a group of eight to order. The rack of lamb was for two and onion soup, which our children love, was $1 extra with the dinner but $1.75 a la carte. There were many discussions as to who would share what and what dishes would be available at children's prices and whether a child ordering a la carte ought to have onion soup. Our waitress came to the rescue.
The steak our son wanted was not available at half price, but the prime rib, at $4 for a child, was. He could splurge on the onion soup he wanted. Our daughter offered to order a dinner entree, shish kebob, and have onion soup with that. It was available at half price.
Our friends' daughters ordered sauteed shrimp, $4.50 a platter for children. My husband chose veal, $7.50, on the dinner, with onion soup. I would share the rack of lamb, $19, with one of our friends, despite the warning from the waitress that rack of lamb took 45 minutes to prepare. The last order was for duck, which had the children pleading for a stay of execution. They thought it meant one of the little white ducks outside would be eliminated.
After the haste of ordering, we decided we needed some wine. Normandy Farms doesn't have carafes of house wine so we ordered a bottle. Our waitress offered to bring the children's entrees to the table as soon as they were ready - that is, without waiting for the rack of lamb.
The cheese spread, which the children liked more than we did, took the edge off our appetites. We had a short wait but the right number of onion soups finally appeared at the table. Our children thought they were superb, we adults thought they were okay.
After the soup we were all served salads which came with both a la carte and dinner order As forewarned by our waitress, we waited out the delay caused by our rack of lamb order. However, Normandy Farms is a pleasant enough place to sit and the children amusemed themselved outdoors with the ducks.
Our children's entrees and piping hot popovers arrived a few minutes in advance of the lamb. The prime ribs were rare, as ordered, and quite tender. The shish kebob looked like a tiny portion, but our daughter said it was quite enough and very good, too. The shrimp were polished off by our friends' children, who liked the way they were prepared. The popovers were the big hit, though. They lasted as good as they looked.
When the adult dishes arrived, the reviews of the food were more mixed. To start with the bad news, the duck did not come off well. The veal was better, but my husband said the best part was the noodles that came with it.
The rack of lamb was delicious. The roast was sliced at the table and served with string beans and potatoes. The only flaw was that we had ordered it rare and it came out medium to well done.However, rack of lamb is good either way and this was such an ample serving that everyone at the table could taste it.
Desserts were also mixed. Our daughter had lemon pie, which was awful, but we adults shared a cheesecake that was respectably good. The other children had plain ice cream.
Our family's share of the $65.80 bill came to $33.75, including the wine.