Hours: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Saturday hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.
Atmosphere: Early American (real and reproduced) antiques, fires in fireplaces and, for the most part, old fashioned Southern cooking.
Price range: Complete dinners $7.20 to 12.50, entrees $5.45 to $10.50.
Credit cards: Master Charge. Visa. American Express and Diner's Club.
Reservations: Rarely necessary except for large groups.
Special facilities: Parking in rear: wheelchairs use a side entrance with only one step.
It sits appropriately on Alexandria's Washington Street: George Washington's "club" house, the one time cabin by the river where the Good Old Boys of the 1780s - Washington. Geroge Mason and other jaycees of the day - met to hoist a few, play cards, smoke a pipe and discuss the founding of the nation. Even the British general Braddock is reputed to have visited the clubhouse, but the founding of a new nation presumably was not discussed in his presence.
Moved by oxen from the banks of the Potomae near Mount Vernon almost two centuries ago, and since then expanded in every direction, the Old Club Restaurant, formerly the Laura Lee Teashop, is one of the few remaining "old fashioned" restaurants in the Washington area.
In fact, it is one of the few restaurant of any kind to survive more than three decades around the nation's capital, where hundreds of restaurants open and close every year and the more than 5,300 restaurants have become one of Washington's biggest industries.
We went to the Old Club, having heard it rumored they serve good Southern-fried chicken. Freshly cooked in peanut oil, it not only was the best we've eaten around Washington, and one of the largest servings, but bore no resemblance to the dry, pre-cooked wings and things that pass for fried chicken at many carry-outs. At $7.20 for a complete dinner, including homemade clam chowder or peanut soup, corn muffins and biscuits, plus salad, beverages and desserts, it also [WORD ILLEGIBLE] something of a bargain. The homemade dessets include pies, cobblers and puddings.
While most appetizers are included in the price of the meal, my wife and I succumbed to the lure of a half dozen good-sized oysters for an extra $1.50. Our 12-year-old spooned a homemade clam chowder and our 15-year-old ordered a sherbet fruit float. Both ate quickly but without comment.
Nothing but favorable comments followed the other dishes however, except for the canned peas and corn, some of which the waitress mercifully spilled on the floor when the busboy bumped into her.
The fried chicken was golden and flaky, and a basket of hot, homemade biscuits and rolls arrived with fresh apple butter, followed by another. Soon we barely had room for the dozen choice dessets, all baked in Old Club ovens.
Apple cobbler with ice cream vied with a traditional pecan pie topped by whipped cream for top family honors. Rice pudding, a dish common in the 1930s and 1940s and ordered by my wife for old time's sake, also was good.
The memu runs the usual gamut of restaurant fare, including beef and fish and a baked Virginia country ham with cornbeard ($8.40 for the complete meal) that reportedly is as good as the fried chicken.
But what makes the meal particularly enjoyable are the surroundings: the simple wooden tables and ladder-back chairs, antiques and fires in the fireplaces and the restored two-room 1780 house, with its sloping, creaking floors, in the center of the building. A non-smoking section adds to the dining pleasure, though incongruous canned music (like the canned peas and corn) detracts from it. The bill for it all seemed reasonable enough: $36.48 plus tax and tip, including the oysters a la carte.