Hours: Tickets can be purchased between noon and 9 p.m. seven days a week; diners will be accommodated until all ticket holders are served.
Atmosphere: Tables ensconced in rooms ranging from big to enormous, decorated in warm colors.
Price range: Moderate. Dinners begin at $4.75 for chopped steak and climb to $8.95 for a New York strip steak.
Credit cards: None accepted, but personal checks are.
Reservations: Accepted for groups of 50 or more persons only; first come, first served.
Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. High chairs are available. A huge parking lot is next to the restaurant.
On a recent weekend when we should have been raking tons of leaves, we instead drove out to look at them in the Catoctin Mountain forests. Although seeing nature's artistry was worth the trip, it was also a chance to have a robust, country-style dinner.
And so, after driving through the hills and stopping at roadside stands for apples, apple butter and cider, we headed back down I-270S. We turned off at the Urbana exit in search of the Peter Pan Inn that had been recommended by three friends. We were looking for a small, rustic inn complete with a fireplace, but the Peter Pan was in fact an enormous building that resembled a motel adjacent to an immense parking lot.
As we walked toward the building, a crowd of people blocked the sidewalk. They were waiting in line to place their dinner orders with cashiers sitting in booths resembling drive-in tellers' windows.
The limited menu is posted on a plastic roster and after making a selection, patrons order and pay for their meals. The cashiers issue a receipt to customers, who wait either inside or outside until their number is called. They are then shown to a table.
The point of going to the Peter Pan; we discovered, is to enjoy a plentiful meal at a reasonable price and in a pleasant, informal atmosphere. We saw people of all ages, dressed in a wide range fo styles, all doing the same thing: eating and having a good time.
My husband and I decided to try the day's two specials. I chose the baked ham, $5.95, and he selected crab cakes, $4.95. Our 8-year-old son ordered a child-sized fried shrimp dinner, and I ordered the $1.50 child's "plate" - no food, just a dish and flatware - for our baby daughter.
As I finished ordering and paying, I saw a sign notifying us that it would be 45 minutes before we would be seated. Ordinarily, the wait with two children would be a problem, but the weather was mild and we sat outside at one of the white, wrought-iron tables in the garden.
While we waited, our son entertained himself by throwing pennies in several fountains lining the landscraped walkways and patios. In what seemed a short time, our guest check number was called and were shown to a table in the American Room.
On our way, we passed through several expansive rooms with such names as the Club Room and Dolphin Room. The dining rooms are cavernous; the American Room accommodates 180 persons and about 700 can be seated throughout the restaurant.
Nevertheless, the restaurant is cheerful and warm and decorated in bright colors.
After our waitress seated us, she drewed a high chair for the baby from a bank of them stored at the restaurant. Since we had already ordered, we didn't have to read menus, but we still had some choices to make. The country-style meal included an appetizer - tomato or grapefruit juice, vegetables of the day, several kinds of breads, a lazy susan filled with garnishes and various beverages.
The tomato juice tasted like the standard canned kind, but we were all delighted by the freshly baked breads: bran-raisin muffins and corn fritters and muffins. After a taste of the corn muffins, our baby wanted little to do with the rest of the meal.
When the waitress delivered our entrees, she also served three bowls filled with vegetables - braised baked potatoes, peas in mushroom sauce and glazed beets - and a lazy susan nearly overflowing with dishes of cottage cheese, apple butter, cole slaw and pickled cabbage. Once our plates were loaded up with a sample of each, it was impossible for us to finish the generous main courses.
Our son liked the shrimp and complained only because he wished we had ordered an adult-sized portion for him.
My husband's crab cakes were generously sized, tasty and crips without being hard. There was more crab than filler in them and no bits of crab shells. My ham slices were all right, but extremely salty and a bit dry. Nevertheless, all of the other food on the table made it an enjoyable meal.
The restaurant's fare is limited. There are only six entrees on the permanent menu and they are all-American in character: fried chicken, $4.85; ham steak, $5.35; fried shrimp, $6.75; T-bone steak, $7.25; chopped steak, $4.75, and New York strip, $8.95.
Portions for children aged 5 to 10 are available in the chicken, for $2.50; shrimp, $3.50; beef steak, $4.95, and chopped steak, $2.60.
Desserts include caramel or chocolate sundaes, orange sherbet and vanilla or peppermint ice cream, and, like the milk, coffee and tea, are included in the dinner price.
When we left the inn both our stomachs and wallets were filled. The dinners cost $16.70 and the drink bill was $4.72, for one Kapok punch and two soft drinks - an evening's total of $21.42, including tax. Tip was extra.