Hours: Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Atmosphere: Nondescript decor, but enough formality so that you know you've been out to dinner.
Credit Cards: American Express, Diners' Club, Master Charge, Visa.
Reservations: Not a bad idea especially on weekends.
Special Facilities: Lots of free parking, accessible by wheelchair, highchairs available.
Say you live in Prince George's County and you're looking for a nice place to go for Sunday dinner. It should be a place that would satisfy everybody from the little one who above all needs something plain, to the gourmet grandmother who above all needs something fancy.
Chason's should just about do it. Though we faced dismal, forgetful, disorganized service from our waiter the night we were there, our patience was rewarded with uniformly good food prettily presented.
Chason's is not cheap; we came away with a bill for four -- all of them for some reason interested in the fancier side of the menu and all of them ravenous -- of around $70 including tip. You can do better with younger or less ravenous children, and then there's always the possibility that gourmet grandma will pay.
Unlike many "nice" restaurants, Chason's -- because of its location, decor and menu -- invites the family group. You know you've been out to dinner but you don't feel you could be thrown out for using the wrong fork.
Chason's menu is eclectic, encompassing everything from Reuben sandwiches to "crepes a la reine" to crab cakes. There's a neat (as opposed to lettuce on the floor) salad bar, a good selection of desserts, some unusual imported beer, and the chef's cream of crab soup, which is more like delicately flavored veloute sauce than like soup. Delicious.
We also tried crab-stuffed mushroom caps for a starter and were pleased that we did. The crab is in a crab cake-like mixture and the mushrooms are sizzled in butter and served with what tastes like homemade mayonnaise.
Gourmets abounded in our family group, so we headed for the heavy hitters on the menu. Calves liver saute was a welcome sight for a liver aficionado -- there are such people, you know -- and he was not disappointed. The liver was served with a garnish of bacon, onions, grapes and mushrooms. Before you say "yuck," consider the complementary flavors and textures in that combination, and clap hands in favor of originality.
Another gourmet took a liking to the tournedos Henry IV, a regal name for a regal presentation of filet mignon. The menu says there were two 4-ounce filets and I'd say they were at least that size, and done perfectly to order at that.They were crowned by artichoke bottoms and doused in real bearnaise sauce.
And now, let's hear it for fresh vegetables, the kind that demonstrate signs of a previous existence as living things. In this case, the vegetable of the day was green beans, and they were real. They, along with a crack at the salad bar, came with dinner selections.
Back at the main courses, we tried two variations on the shrimp theme. One, shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, was a real treat. The shrimp looked and tasted like shrimp and the crab meat mixture was worthy of star billing on its own. A simpler dish, shrimp saute amandine, was equally successful. The shrimp were fresh and plump and presented in ample quantity.
None of this, as we said, comes cheaply. The tournedos will set you back an arm and a leg -- well actually just $12.95 -- and the shrimp hover in the $11 range. Other entrees are more reasonable, however, and you could find plenty to eat between $7 and $9. And there is a light eaters' menu with most prices under $4.
We should admit that our gluttony on this occasion extended to dessert. Taking a wild stab in the dark, we decided that black bottom cake sounded just about right, and so did apple pie. We were not sorry. The black bottom cake is an outrageous combination of gooey chocolate cake, gooey vanilla ice cream, all surrounded by a healthy protective coating of gooey chocolate sauce. And the apple pie was apple pie. Deserts are mostly about $1.50 and if our experience is a guide, mostly very good.
And if all this has not convinced you, we can offer one last item, this one in the clarity-in-menu-writing category. The lobster and steak combination is not called surf 'n' turf. It is called lobster and steak.