If you've got a rapidly expanding teen-ager with a bottomless pit where his stomach ought to be, there's a new restaurant chain working its way around the Beltway where you can get a temporary filling put in.
It's called the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House. There are six of them in Northern Virginia, with a seventh scheduled to open in Manassas this month and they operate under the magic words "all you can eat."
The chain also uses many of the operating principles of a fast-food restaurant - depending on volume, a stripped-down decor and menu, a predominantly teen-age staff and no credit cards to keep prices low.
We visited one of their newer facilities one recent week night. It is strategically located across from the Rte. 7 entrance to the Tysons Corner Shopping Center.
Despite its seating for 600, about double the capacity of even the larger restaurants in the area, there are lines outside during the peak dinner hour.
It was obvious from the first that they were ready even for us with our two preschoolers: the menu said children under 6, all you can eat, free.
Having been prepped by friends, I asked if we could have a bowl of hush puppies, which come with the dinners, to nibble on while we perused the menu. Nibble is not the right word. Wolf or stuff is better. They are excellent, as attested to by everyone at our table and as evidenced by the soon empty - and refilled - bowl.
Now for the menu and some rules of the road. You had better leave your cholesterol counter at home, because the best things in life are fried, at least at the Chesapeake House. On the all-you-can-eat menu, that's 10 of the 12 items, and after sampling one of the broiled dishes from the regular portion of the menu, I would recommend sticking to fried, which it seems is more suited to volume food preparation.
There are six all-you-can-eat items, including fried cod, baby shrimp, flounder, trout, chicken and clams, which are free for children under 6 and cost $1.75 for children 6 to 12. The prices on these items range from $2.95 to $4.95 for adults. The second section of the all-you-can-eat menu includes some higher priced items, such as Alaskan Crab legs for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and steamed spiced shrimp for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] . And here's the kicker: You may reorder, free, any other all-you-can-eat item of equal or less cost than our original order.
I have a friend who claims her 17-year-old son ordered the Alaskan crab legs and then made it through the next seven entrees on the menu. I don't know if that's a record, but his nickname is Moose.
No longer the champion chowhound of yesteryear, I can only report on a limited number of the entrees. The fried shrimp - both the baby gulf and the slightly larger ones - were excellent, sweet and tender. There were plenty of them. The fried trout was only passable and the fried clams were too well fried and tough possibly from the bottom of a batch and a temporary aberration. The cole slaw that accompanied the meal was fresh and good and the french fries, also with the dinner, were McDonald's variety.
My husband ordered his favorite broiled flounder stuffed with crab meat for $4.50 from the regular menu but said it was rather blah, as if all the flavor had been steamed out of it.
He did have the New England clam chowder for $1 as an appetizer and thoroughly enjoyed what he could get of that, which wasn't much since the baby liked it too. There was no dessert so we had another bowl of hugh puppies. Our bill for a family of four, including tip, came to $15.83.