Hours: Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner, but meals available downstairs in the Wade Hampton Lounge from 2:30 p.m. until closing.
Atmosphere: Cozy early American, with tables and booths comfortably spaced.
Price Range: Luncheon sandwiches begin at $1.95 and meals range from $2.95 to $3.50. Dinners range from $5.95 for roast turkey or crab cakes to $10.95 for the lobster steak plate.
Credit Cards: Visa, Master Charge and American Express.
Special Facilities: A half-dozen front steps make it inaccessible by wheelchair. Highchairs are available. On-street parking may be in short supply during daytime business hours.
In an attempt to stretch out a glorious Saturday, we recently decided to go to Occoquan and stroll by the riverside. The temperature was balmy, the humidity was low and the breezes light; the evening was a delight with its long shadows and almost-autumn warmth, and we were prepared to browse and shop before dinner.
Unfortunately, when we reached the village shortly before dusk, most of the antiques shops, crafts studios and galleries were closed.
We turned our attention to dinner and decided to try the more than 200-year-old Occoquan Inn.
Its cheerful and cozy dinner room is enhanced by large front and rear windows that let in extra light. The decor is early American, and attractive pewter plates embossed with Occoquan Inn invite diners to take a place at one of the several tables. The paper tablecloths were the one jarring touch.
The main dining room has nicely spaced tables and booths that hug the outer wall. An auxiliary dining room is reached by using a hallway across the rear of the house, and a downstairs lounge offers live entertainment every night for no cover charge. Meals also are served in the lounge.
We arrived early enough to be seated in the main dining room, and our waitress chatted with us when she brought the highchair for our 8-month-old baby.
As she handed out menus, which include a brief history of Occoquan, and took our drink orders, she also asked if there were anything special the children needed. When she returned with our drinks, she explained that instead of a children's menu, the restaurant has children-sized portions of five regular entrees at $2 less than the regular prices. Children's dinners, and children's prices, are fried shrimp, $4.75; crab cakes, $3.95, red snapper, $6.25; roast turkey, $3.95, and veal normandy, $4.95.
Our 8-year-old chose the crab cakes. The vegetable of the day turned out to be broccoli - a dish our baby loves - so we ordered a side dish, 50 cents, for her.
My husband selected the Occoquan Inn flounder, which is broiled fish stuffed with crabmeat, $6.75.
I was torn between the steak teriyaki, $7.25, and the veal normandy, but finally decided on the veal after succumbing to a description of the sauce - wine, mushrooms and cream.
After we ordered we tried the salad bar, which included lettuce, onion slices, cherry tomatoes, croutons and three dressings. It also offered cold, cooked peas covered with a creamy sauce that had a hint of dill in it. The peas were particularly tasty, and we were told the dish is a concoction made up by the restaurant's host. Crackers, melba toast and slice-your-own loaves of bread also were laid out on the bar.
As we nibbled, we caught the aroma of potato soup wafting from a nearby table. It looked so good we ordered a small cup for the baby. The waitress took the trouble to lable a portion that was long on soup and short on potatoes, but when it was served we kept sampling it until there wasn't very much left for her. The soup, creamy and smooth with a touch of parsley, regularly costs 80 cents, but our smaller portion was 50 cents.
About then we noticed that dinners at almost every nearby table had ordered the evening's special, barbecued ribs for $5.95. Enormous platefuls of ribs were being delivered all over the room. The rib platters looked irresistible, and the three young men at the next table, who had each ordered the special, confessed that they had trouble finishing their meal - but they did.
We were not disappointed when our own orders arrived, however, and we were gratified to find that our son's crab cakes were generous and filled with crabmeat instead of bread and filler. After eating both patties, he had no room for the large, homemade french fries that were served as a side dish.
My husband's flounder was clearly one of the restaurant's best dishes. The fish and crabmeat were delicately flavored and cooked; the crab meat was mild, and the flounder was tasty but not fishy.
Although the sauce on my veal was good and the rice served with it was fluffy, the meat itself was thick and chewy. My tenderness test is based on the ability to cut meat with a fork in my right hand while I tend to the baby's needs with my left - the veal didn't pass.
The portions are plentiful, and my desire for a piece of carrot cake, 95 cents, was based strictly on greed. Others desserts include cheesecake, apple or pecan pie and ice cream. Once the cake was on the table, however, my son ate most of it while I had coffee.
Our bill was a pleasantly surprising $23.56, including tax, beverages and a half carafe of rose wine. Tip was extra.