Hours; Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Atmosphere: Like the iceberg, this spot has more to it below the surface; stick-to-the-ribs fare at curbside, and fun and games below.

Price Range: Only the Greek-style salad hits $4; all the entrees are less.

Credit Cards: Visa only.

Reservations: None required. The only lines here are for the pinball machines.

Special Facilities: Sidewalk tables accessible by wheelchair, but the rest is down steep steps. Seating for the wee ones is an ad-lib proposition. Back-street parking if you cruise.

Clearly our two junior associates had been conspiring all afternoon, banking on the knowledge that (1) their mother was out of town and (2) sooner or later it would be time for a meal. Old Dad probably would make some ham-handed offer to show off his strictly Cordon Noir cooking skills - and then a motion to adjourn to an eatery would carry by a 2-to-1 margin.

It carried us in this instance to the Far Inn, which a reader had nominated one time as a Family Out test site. All I could remember about the place was a New Year's Eve many leap years ago when my wife and I and a few friends piled in there at midnight for some reason, blew a few paper horns and wondered why we were there.

Would it still be just a little door with some stairs going down to a room that even tricolored crepe paper streamers couldn't brighten? Or had the passage of time set things straight by now?

Do read on - for some of the best answers are toward the end.

The little door is still there, all right - but we never got to it. Around the corner, under a big awning with those oldtime lanterns and ceiling fans, was the Far Inns farther-out sidewalk strip of maybe 20 tables bedecked in brown-speckled oilcloth.

The place was only half full. This meant we could nab a spot with a perfect view of the Master Valet Car Wash.

People don't dress for dinner here, by the way - au contraire, they seemed to have undressed, down to halter tops, gym shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. I felt like a fuddy-duddy in my jeans until the sandal crowd - obviously all rejects from the "Alien" ticket line at the Uptown Theater across the street - began padding over.

The kids' kickoff colas were spiffy enough - brightened by maraschino cherries. My beer, if you're interested, was a basic gold, thoughtfully poured.

There were three appetizers, though I can't imagine why the fruit cup goes for 25 cents more than gazpacho or onion soup with cheese at $1.50. The kids went for the onion soup, which came in regulation tureens with appropriate roofs of thatched bread and cheese. I found it a little salty, but rather than hurt any offspring's feelings, didn't rub it in.

The specials for this Sunday evening, scrawled on a sidewalk blackboard, were three: liverwurst sandwich, $2; barbecued chicken, $3.25, and fish and chips, $2.50. But the menu offered still other entrees and sandwiches, all under $4 - and therein hung our selections.

The 10-year-old young lady would work on a hot roast beef sandwich with fries, $3.25, and her 12-year-old brother would tackle the hot turkey counterpart at the same price. These were enormous items - thick slices of meat, mountains of steak fries and lakes of gravy.

I knew right away that even my open-pit sidekick wouldn't be able to gobble up all that turkey. I had my hands full, too, with the leadoff item from the entree list: roast chicken with walnut sauce - that's right, walnut sauce - at $3.85.

The combination works. The sauce was smooth and not too nutty, and it brought out the best in a good-sized portion of chicken.

Hold on right here, just as I was doing while waiting for the check - for this is when the kids went bonkers over the place. They had gone on a reconnaissance mission, down a weird cement stairway at the far end of the Far Inn strip. Now daughter was back at my side, requesting two quarters and, when possible, my company.

Down those stairs, past the kitchen window and inside is a dazzling game room, bar, dance floor, dining area complex - comlete with dart boards, TV games, those twirling wooden soccer players, pinballs and you-name-it paraphernalia.

I got talked into playing a "Space Wars" game and wound up surrendering both times. That's one sure-fire way for a parent to generate sibling revelry.

Not to spoil the victors, however, I managed after some doing to extract the kids beore too much change parted from pocket.

Discounting this side-trip to the basement, our tab was a modest $17.45 plus tip. And the best tip we can offer to parents is to keep the kids upstairs as long as you can - for ours are dying to "get down" at the Far Inn as soon as they can.