The flu season hit out family early and hard. By the time we had recovered, we felt we deserved an especially nice dinner out, preferably one that did not feature chicken soup.
Poor Richard's Sirloin Room had been on my list of places to try for Sunday brunch: I had heard it was a reasonable and good way to get a Sunday rolling. Could it end a Sunday as well?
Poor Richard's is in a Holiday Inn on Wisconsin Avenue, just above Friendship Heights. A Holiday Inn is not the first place we might look for an interesting, quaint and unusual restaurant. Poor Richard's, though, was an exception.
Dimly lit, it had a colonial Williamsburg decor. A big grandfather clock ticked away in one corner. The bare wood tables were highly polished and set with dried flowers. Arm chairs were set around the tables to bring diners all the comforts of home.
Our party of six - a friend and his daughter joined us for dinner - were seated at a large oval table big enough for eight. How nice not to be cramped near neighboring tables or against people in our own group.
The three adults received plush blue menu books with a healthy variety of selections: seafood dishes that ranged from $5.25 for filet of sole to $13.95 for lobster tails; roast beef and steak choices that ranged from $5.95 for London broil to $19.95 for planked New York Sirloin or Chateaubriand for two; crepes for $5.25 to $6.95, and an assortment of continental dishes such as veal [WORD ILLEGIBLE] bleu, $7.25, and shrimp parmesan with spaghetti $5.95.
Our menu added bits of advice from Poor Richard (Ben Franklin), our favorite being, "Eat to please thyself; dress to please others."
Our children, who were given menus printed on lion faces, took that advice to heart. Being 11 and 12 years old, they didn't like the idea of ordering from the children's menu and resisted spaghetti and meat sauce, bread and butter, milk or coke for $1.95 as well as fried filet of sole, $2.95; ham-burger sandwich, $2.25, and ham-burger platter, $3.25. Our daughter did agree to try the children's fried shrimp dinner, $4.25, if allowed to order french onion soup, $1.95, from the adult menu.
THe other children held to a hard line. They wanted the adult-menu London broil and the difference in price didn't seem worth arguing about.
My husband ordered roast beef, $8.25 for the moderate size cut, and I opted for calf's liver, $6.75, a dish I not only like but one which, I feel, tests a kitchen's merit. It's easy to overcook and turn liver into leather. Our friend was pleased to find corned beef, $6.75. He ordered it along with vegetable soup, $1.25.
Poor Richard's does not have carafes of house wine. We ordered a bottle of red wine, $8, instead of cocktails and sat back in our armchairs to enjoy the gratis crackers and cheese spread our waiter brought to the table.
The onion and vegetable soups broke our reverie. The onion soup was served in a crock, piping hot and covered with a thick layer of cheese. The vegetable soup, our friend reported, was delicious if you like vegetable soup with a strong tomato base. he did.
The adult-menu dinners came with salads that were superb. Instead of serving individual salads with a blob of dressing poured over it, each salad had been tossed with just the right amount of dressing. The waiter came around offering bacon bits, chopped egg, chopped onion and grated cheese garnishes for the salads.
Five of the six main courses came out exceptionally well. The roast beef was firm and juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare as ordered. The liver had been lightly sauteed and smothered in onions. The London broils in a mushroom gravy looked beautiful and were finished off by our children, who didn't offer their parents any bites. The fried shrimp was also nicely served and good. Three big shrimp, cocktail sauce, cole slaw and french fries were on the plate. It was more than a 12-year-old who had already had onion soup could eat.
The only disappointment - and it wasn't a major one - was the corned beef and cabbage. The meat was nicely lean and thinly sliced, but not as good as the other dishes.
If we had any complaints, it was about the hash brown potatoes, which were too highly seasoned for our tastes and on the dry side.
We ended our dinner by sharing two strawberry shortcakes, $1.50 apiece, and one slice of melon, $1.50.
The tab for our family of four's share of the dinner came to $35.45, and that included four entress, one soup, half the wine, two coffees and two desserts. While it wasn't an inexpensive dinner, we felt it was a good value because the food was fine, the service pleasant and the surroundings lovely.