Atmosphere: Similar to a lovely beer garden.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Price Range:$4.35 to $13.

Reservations: Advisable on weekends.

Credit Cards: Visa, Master Charge, American Express.

Special Facilities: Parking in shopping center lot in front of restaurant; a curb must be mounted, but restaurant itself is accessible to wheelchairs; booster seats; cocktail menu.

The Edelweiss is a restaurant we would like to see succeed. Neighborhood restaurants with character are almost as endangered a species as the fabled edelweiss is in its native alpine region. A new restaurant in Gaithersburg, the Edelweiss is like a dressed-up-6-year-old at his first piano recital. The idea is good, and it looks appealing, but the actual performance leaves something to be desired.

Obviously the management has high aspirations.The restaurant has several nice touches. The maitre d' seated us in a pretty dining room filled with green plants and wrought iron garden furniture and decorated for Christmas with a large lighted tree. A costumed waitress and a waiter in black tie seemed to be offering expert service.

We settled down to consider the menu, which offered a variety of Bratwursts and schnitzels -- even venison -- and a few non-Germanic dishes like grilled salmon steak and Chateaubriand. Although the Edelweiss has no children's menu, children under 12 can share an order. All dinners are served with the vegetable of the day and salad and a choice of dumpling, spatzle, potatoes or rice.

We ordered. Warm rolls and salads appeared quickly, and we relaxed to the strains of Christmas music provided by a strolling accordionist. Unfortunately, it was all downhill after that.

We waited. We waited. And then we waited some more. Eventually we overheard a waitress tell the couple behind us that their dinners were delayed because of a large party in another room. After a few more minutes of waiting the couple walked out. Our daughters were ready to retreat to the nearest fast food restaurant, which prompted a parental lecture on the virtue of patience.

An hour after we had ordered, our dinners arrived. The food was agreeable, although some of the dishes seemed to have been waiting too long in the kitchen.

My husband's sauerkrautplatte, $7.50, offered a variety of meats -- pork, bratwurst, frankfurter and liver dumpling -- on a bed of sauerkraut. Our older daughter ordered Bratwurst with sauerkraut and German potato salad, $4.35, and I tried Sauerbraten, served with its traditional potato dumpling and red cabbage, $6.50.

Our younger girls, feeling less Teutonic decided to share skewered seafood, $8.50, a brochette of shrimp, sea scallops, swiss cheese and ham. They were quite happy with their dinner, especially since the waitress let them substitute french fries for rice.

The bratwurst and the meats of the sauerkraut plate were fine, if undistinguished, but the side dishes were a disappointment.

The sauerkraut and cabbage both tasted as though they had spent too long on a steam table, and the potato dumpling lacked flavor. The German potato salad was very plain indeed, lacking the usual bacon bits.

I looked forward to the sauerbraten, a pot roast refrigerated for days in a vinegar and wine mixture, then simmered in the same marinade until tender. The two slices of beef I was served were tender, but lacked the sour tang characteristic of sauerbraten, which made me wonder if a sauerbraten gravy was simply poured over plain pot roast.

When we finished, our dishes were carefully cleared. But our dirty knives and forks were put back on the table. Only a direct request brought a clean fork for dessert. Since the Edelweiss has its own pastry chef, I thought apple strudel, 75 cents, would be a good way to end the meal. We also ordered black forest cake, 85 cents, a peach melba and a fruchetebecher -- a dish of ice cream garnished with fruit -- $1.25 each, and an orange sherbert, 60 cents.

The black forest cake was good, the peach melba and the strudel average. The ice cream with fruit proved very hard to eat since it was served in a goblet. The chunks of canned fruit topping the ice cream were too large to eat as they were, and impossible to cut in the goblet.

After another long wait we received our check. Our tab, tax and tip included, was $44.23.

We left, hoping that as this pleasant, attractive restaurant becomes more established, it will iron out the uneveness in its service and pay more attention to detail in its food.