Atmosphere: A nice blend of contemporary and Victorian.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.
Price Range: Sandwiches from $1.75 for tuna to $3.25 for an Ice Burger at lunch ($3.95 at dinner); salads and omelets from $1.25 to $3.25; dinners from $4.95 for a knockwurst platter to $8.95 for New York sirloin. There is no children's menu.
Reservations: Recommended for dinner, especially on weekends.
Credit Cards: Visa, Master Charge and American Express accepted.
Special Facilities: Late-night snacks of sandwiches, omelets and salads are served until midnight. Parking is on the street.Patrons in wheelchairs may have difficulty with double doors and a step up at the entrance.
As its name hints, the Ice House Cafe has connections to a real icehouse. It stands on the site of one that burned down around the turn of the century.
Inside the red brick and cinderblock building, fragments from the gaslight era mingle with today's trendy furnishings. Authentic oak iceboxes, ceiling fans, a bar with a brass foot railing and old prints rub elbows with laminated butcher block tables, bentwood chairs and waist-high barnboard paneling. The result is striking, yet casual.
A second dining room at the back of the restaurand is more formal.
Families, especially those with older children who have healthy appetites, may find that dining at the Ice House can make quite a dent in the budget, since there is no children's menu.
One solution is to order sandwiches, which we judged to be very good during a recent Saturday lunch.
The waitress didn't give us a menu, but reeled off a list of items available that day, all sandwiches. Among them were roast beef, $2.50; imported ham, $2.50; and the Ice Burger, a hamburger topped with ham and cheddar cheese, $3.25.
The pastrami, $2.25, was described as "lean and mean," and so it turned out to be. It was served grilled, on pumpernickel bread. The pastrami wasn't up to New York deli standards, but it recevied high marks for Northern Virginia.
The Reuben, $2.75, a combination of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and house Russian dressing on rye bread, was toasted so that the cheese melted deliciously into the sauerkraut.
Ice House hamburgers, $2.25, on crusty kaiser rolls, were among the best we've tasted. Made from six ounces of beef which was just a touch pink inside, they were thick and juicy.When our 6-year-old was unable to finish hers, the waitress offered a doggy bag.
All the sandwiches came with potato chips and a dill pickle.
Omelets, $2, and a few sandwiches in the $3.45 to $3.95 range -- such as turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato for $3.50 -- are listed on the dinner menu, but are available only to patrons in the front dining room.
For families whose children prefer a full meal, sharing may be order. The Ice House staff seems amenable to splitting portions of some dishes on request.
In addition to fish, chicken and steak, the dinner menu offers three varieties of veal from $7.95 to $8.95, bourbon-glazed ham, $5.95, and German-style pork chops with red cabbage, $7.75. A vegetable or salad, potatoes and bread accompany each entree.
There are also platters of eggplant parmigiana, $4.95; knockwurst and sauerkraut, $4.95; and baked ziti with Italian sausage, $5.95.
Appetizers range from chicken livers wrapped in bacon for $1.75 to oysters Rockfeller for $3.50. There are a la carte soups and salads as well, notable watercress salad for $1.50 and spinach salad for $3.25.
Desserts are limited to vanilla ice creams, $1; a moist cheesecake, $1.50 plain and $1.75 with liqueur flavoring; and a brownie served with ice cream, $1.50. The brownie is thinly sliced and filled with chunks of walnuts, and is rich enough to satisfy the most ardent chocoholic.
Our family of four had lunch for just under $15, including colas, an imported Bass ale and dessert, but not including tip.