3236 M St. NW, 333-0294.
Hours: Omelette room opens 8 a.m. every day; restaurant as a whole opens 11 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. Sundays and remains open until the wee hours of the morning.
Atmosphere: About as sophisticated as a hamburger joint can be.
Price range: Sandwiches, hamburgers and dinner entrees from $3.25 to $11.50.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Credit cards: Accepts major credit cards.
Special facilities: Narrow entryways, foyers and hallways rule out wheelchair accessibility; parking is the usual Georgetown roulette.
Ever since Clyde's opened 15 years ago, it's been famous in Washington as a sophisticated saloon. Definitely, my husband informed me, not a place to take children for an early Sunday evening dinner.
Our debate raged all the way to Clyde's. I argued that the hamburgers and cottage fries were known to be excellent and that 5:30 p.m. Sunday was hardly a swinging singles hour.
We finally agreed to at least check it out.
Clyde's was, indeed, the handsome and urbane bar it's known to be, but both the omelette room in the front and the dining room in back were filled with several families. Ketchup bottles and cokes glistened on the tables.
The back room, where we wanted to settle, is one of the best looking hamburger joints in the city: brick walls are topped by huge mirrors; a wagon wheel, suspended from the ceiling, is filled with plants that are reflected in the mirrors. The only light we could spot was a candle on each table.
The omelette room is more brightly lit and outfitted with touches of brass and fresh flowers. It's just as handsome, but the menu choices are limited to omelettes and a few pasta dishes.
The hostess for the back room was as helpful and hospitable as we could wish. She explained that two tables for five (our daughter had a friend with her) had just been seated. Patrons at the other large table had "cashed out" (paid their bill) half an hour ago, but they still remained chatting. The wait, the hostess said, could be a minute or another half hour; she'd try to hint that they move along but, she added, there wasn't much she could do.
Fortunately for us, the table cleared in five minutes. Our waiter, in his white dress shirt and bow tie, was equally friendly, telling us which hamburgers and sandwiches were the best. He brought my husband and me big glasses of wine, $1.50 a piece, and our children smaller glasses of coke, 75 cents each.
Our son, who had wanted to remain home and watch football, was in ecstasy. He could see the game on the bar's television set. He placed his order for a bacon cheeseburger, medium rare, $3.75, and bellied up to the bar for a closer look.
We started dinner with pea soup, $1.25 a cup, and hot brie, $3.75. The soup was for my husband who said it was good but could have been hotter. The rest of us shared the brie, which came with four pats of butter, four little plates and a loaf of French bread. The brie was smothered in butter and sliced almonds and was superb. The small portions took the edge off our hunger but didn't ruin our appetites.
Our waiter had expressed dismay when I asked for a hamburger -- "Boring," he said. He perked up when I changed it to cheeseburger and when the rest of the family ordered. Our daughter had a Roman burger, a hamburger topped with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and marinara sauce, $4.25. She said it was delicious; the pepperoni added a nice bit of spice. She found she could finish the burger if she didn't eat all the roll.
Our son's bacon cheeseburger came medium rare as ordered, but since he'd had a few extra bites of brie, he couldn't finish the whole thing. My plain cheeseburger, with lettuce, slice of tomato, shaft of dill pickle and heap of cottage fries (which accompany all burgers and sandwiches) was as good as I had expected.
Our daughter's friend, on the waiter's recommendation, ordered "Walter's Favorite," $3.75, a hot pastrami sandwich topped with melted Monterey Jack cheese and served on pumpernickel bread with Thousand Island dressing and cole slaw. It was too much for a 12-year-old to eat, but she said it was good.
My husband had a sirloin steak sandwich, $5.25, which also came off well. The cottage fries were the biggest hit of all, though. The potatoes are thinly sliced rounds that are fried to a semi-crisp. Whatever it is they do to them, they're terrific.
We ended our meal with two coffees for the adults and three desserts for the children: chocolate mousse, cheesecake and creme caramel, $1.50 each. The adult tasters pronounced the mousse and caramel excellent, the cheesecake weak but passable.
Despite our trepidations about eating there, Clyde's turned out to be a comfortable and pleasant place for a family dinner. Though there were no high chairs or booster seats in sight, it was an appropriate place for older children. The service is quick and efficient, so even those parents with fidgeting children could be in and out in fairly fast order.
Our tab for a three-course meal, wine and cokes for two adults and two children would have been $30.50; an extra child brought it to $36.50.