It's mid-day Saturday, and already you've scooped up a football player from practice, driven across a fair piece of the Greater Washington landscape of the soccer player's game and now guess who's the worst for wear?
No rest for the weary adult yet, however, for there's the roar of your little crowd for some lunch. Just this once, you mumble to yourself, we don't rally with every other team in the region at that fast-food spot.
Nope, this time we'd try something else - and something else is what you find at The Baron's Gourmet Delly. Where else could you find borscht, lasagna, bagels with lox, pizza, matzoh-ball soup and Spanish meat pies?
What you won't find is a table - for there aren't any here. But we're getting ahead of ourselves; there is first the narrow entrance, where a sign sets forth this establishment's standards for the attire of its clientele:
We passed, if barely, since the 11-year-old football player had switched out of his disintegrating practice outfit. The 9-year-old soccer player also had slipped out of her uniform into something comfortable. Her friend and contemporary - an ever-game sports-and-food fan - was ready from the start in her Saturday best.
Inside, there was to our terribly close right the encased delicatessen counter; and to our just-as-close left and beyond, shelves and shelves of groceries and stacks of beer and soft drink cases. Way in the back is the dining area.
Two dining areas, actually. For those who like to dine out, the little counter window to one side is where you can get anything wrapped up. For those dining in, there's a long U-shaped counter with (at last count) some 22 stools.
At least these-stool-chairs have backs to them. I though, noting that most also seemed to have people in them right now.
Should we wait around for five seats? "The taste is worth the wait," said a big poster that was signed, "The Baron." Far be it from us to buck nobility.
Eventually, a few people sporting "Delegate" ribbons moved to adjourn and our quintet pounced on a lineup of stools.
For food, pizzas would do just fine, said at least two of our side-kicks. But those, said the remarkably cool gentleman in the red jacket who was handling everybody's orders in careful rotation, would require a 30-minute wait since they're "done from scratch."
Well, scratch the pizzas. What else would it be? Maybe a "Baltimore hot dog," grilled and wrapped in bologna on a seeded roll, for $1.10? Or one of 10 or so Kosher-style "mouth-stretcher" sandwiches, ranging from a 95-cent Kosher dog to hot brisket of beef or Nova Scotia lox with toasted bagel, tomoto, lettuce, cream cheese and Bermuda onion, for $2.50?
How about steak and eggs, with hash browns, toast, butter and coffee, for $2.99? Or one of the entrees, ranging from liver and onions at $2.75 to a T-bone steak at $4.95?
We could go on and on, with Italian dishes such as manicotti stuffed with cheese, or cannelloni (with meat) or ravioli, each at $2.95; homemade lasagna, or veal with spaghetti, each at $3.50.
While our heads were still spinning at this variety of international offerings, our perky young guest culled the long list and decided to go it big - with a grilled cheese sandwich for $1.35.
Our son chose an Italian sub, which had everything on it (salami, ham, tomato and onion) except - and who cares - bologna. It comes with fries and goes for $2.45.
While he was torpedoing the sub, his sister was singing the praises of a "Double" sandwich (that's not as in size, but as in Single, Double, Triple, Home Run, T.K.O., Field Goal, Extra Point and other sporty sandwich names).
The Double consists of many slices of steak, melted cheese and (unless you hold them as our daughter did) onions and peppers, all on a seasoned sub roll, for $2.75.
My wife and I tried the matzoh ball in chicken soup, at 85 cents a bowl. The ball in each instance was about the size of Spalding's major-league best. The soup was a mixture of noodles, carrots and celery and it got a mixture of reviews: one "all right" and one"eh?"
Next, a reuben for my wife. This was a sandwich of grilled Swiss cheese over corned beef, with Russian dressing and sauerkraut, for $2.50. It was also deemed an exceptional piece of work, though word had it the dill pickles were watery and flavorless.
The natural thing to go with matzoh-ball soup, I decided, was an order of empanada - a Spanish meat pie, for $1.50. It was a fine crab-shaped pastry crust, with ground beef inside and, had I let myself go (around the middle), I would have ordered a second one.
By now, most of our counterpartners - the guy in the undershirt and running shorts, the rest of the conventioneers and the woman who'd been buried in a book - had left. Our tab, for the food and colas, came to $14.75 plus tip - a delly-cut bite if we may say so.
Trouble was, we didn't get past the cash register that easily, for under it they've got trays of attractive pastries and the kids knew it. The supply of tall, chocolate-square models was down to two, though, and it took a mini-seminar to determine who would wind up odd-kid-out.
I forget how that came out, but the two chocolates and a mocha look-alike came to $2.55, while we all came to the conclusion that this had been a fine post-game lunch break. The Baron's Gourmet Delly
2643 Connecticut Ave. NW. 332-3555.
Hours: From 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
Atmosphere: Elegant this isn't - but for an offbeat weekend lunch, so what?
Price Range: No big deals of here; the biggest deal on the menu is $4.95, and that's steak, two vegetables, bread and butter.
Credit Cards: No.
Reservation: Don't be silly.
Special Facilities: For wee ones, you'll need a rope or a belt to strap them to the counter seats. Access by wheelchair is extremely difficult because of the narrow aisles and the counter service. Street parking on weekend afternoons isn't too bad.