Hours: Every day from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Atmosphere: An old stable where the horses have been swapped for fine Arabic feed.

Price Range: From a fancy Middle Eastern salad at $4.95 to the top of the line for $7.95. Credit Cards: All major cards except Carte Blanche.Reservations: It's hard to say; see below. Special Facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. High chairs and booster seats available. Street parking if you cruise patiently.

Our plan for this soft summer evening was to steal away to the Ali Baba, a Middle Eastern oasis on Capitol Hill where we'd once found fine fodder for this column. But alas, it looked as if the once-proud Ali Baba had been done in by those 40 thieves - gone to that great galley in the sky.

As a snappy recovery, our 12-year-old son, who had succeeded in replacing his younger sister with his hollow-legged pal Mutt for this foray, remembered a sure thing from the past and suggested, Why not the Iron Gate Inn?

On our way there, a morsel of pertinent history, if you will, as recounted authoritatively by whoever wrote the menu cover: On this site, once the bustling estate of one Nelson A. Miles, popular general of Spanish and Indian War fame, the stable that once housed his beloved prancing bays is now a downtown Middle Eastern eatery.

Inside, under the old hay racks, feed boxes, harness hooks and saddle trees, the hungry of Washington have been gathering by the fireplace for years to enjoy specialities.

Through the big iron gate out front we went, past an energy-feak's dream: a 6-foot-high, who-knows-how-long stack of firewood along the alley wall.

It was a night for eating not in the air-conditioned stalls, but outside in the cool, vine-covered garden. The only obstacle was the maitre d" - who was confusing everyone with a nonsensical seating policy.

First he said no names, please, everyone wait in line; then he said people with reservations came first; then he said he never said that in the first place.

Fortunately a swift and sympathetic waiter came to the rescue by seating everyone he could right away, apologizing for the bad show at the door and guiding us each through his recommendations of what the boys would like and what the evening's best bets were.

That helped, because even with the little patio candlelights and overhead lanterns, it was a bit dark for reading, seeing your food or, if you must know, taking legible notes. Still, the quiet charm more than compensated for any night vision problems.

A basket of hot Arabic bread and plenty of butter didn't exactly hurt, either. With a round of colas and beers and one more strategy huddle with the waiter, we made our selections from a list of maybe 15 tempting platters in the $5.50-to-$7.95 range.

By choosing two kinds of shish kebab, the boys had fun stick-shifting hunks of charbroiled lamb and cubes of porterhouse. According to their kebab-tales, both renditions, $7.95, were sensationally seasoned - not hot, but so favorful that the accompanying rice seemed bland.

The salads with each entree drew unsolicited praise, with special citations for the romaine lettuce and the light dressing.

My wife tried something that sounded like the name of one of General Miles' horses: Lamb Curry Roz, $6.25. Anyone who like a good curry-out dinner should revel in this one. Even our son, who like many of his contemporaries is in no hurry for curry, tasted it and voted aye.

I had cous-cous, a large bowl of cracked wheat, chick peas, carrots and chunks of tender lamb in a light sauce and a house speciality at $6.25. Though not a seller with the boys, this is a worthy parental pick.

Adventure-lovers should note the Arabian Knights Platter, $7.95, which offers a combination of Middle Eastern selections - though most kids are likely to prefer something more specific.

For a most specific and spectacular dessert, the magic word her is - get this spelling - baqlaawa, $1.50. My wife and I sipped coffee, sang the praises of sharing to four deaf ears and watched two bagel-sized orders of beautiful nut-and-honey pastry nearly disappear before we were offered miniscule sharebites.

For the works, our bill was $38.02, a moderate reckoning for such a fine feast, and only slightly more than the prices a good 18 months ago.

As you may have gathered, this great old stable probably isn't the sort of spot to tether any teeny ones. But kids who are, say, 7 years old or more will enjoy the setting as well as the equally gentle lamb, beef and chicken recipes.

The only beef the four of us got was the next day, when our daughter heard where we'd been without her - for she, like so many Washingtonians, remembers the Iron Gate Inn with justifiable fondness.