Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Price Range: Inexpensive. Subs, sandwiches, $1 to $2. Blue plate specials, $3 to $4. Pizza, $2.95 to $6.75.
Atmosphere: Tattered, rather noisy, but pleasant.
Special facilities: Booster chairs. Plenty of parking out front. No children's menu. No special arrangements for handicapped, but management will be helpful.
Credit Cards: None.
Reservations: Not necessary. Service is fast. Call ahead for carryout.
The only clue that Gentleman Jim's takes food seriously is a little sign in the curtained window: "Message to our customers: This is not a fast food restaurant."
Otherwise, you'd never know that the place offers good, simple American family food -- plus a distinctive pizza -- at about the lowest prices around.
True, on a recent visit, the place did show signs of change. Though gum and cigarette machines still greet you upon entering, the bar stools are gone ("to get rid of the creeps," said our waitress).
But a tavern atmosphere persists. It's as dark as ever inside; the music still blars. You still eat at formica tables and sit in tattered vinyl booths.
Tacky wall signs offer wisdom: "An energy crisis isn't new if you're over 40" read one.
And the place still serves a specialty pizza not found elsewhere. It's a particular pizza I've known since childhood, when it was served at the old Cavalier Bar and Grill down on 14th Street in the District. In those days Washington was not a cosmopolitan restaurant town. But local families such as mine knew where to get good food. My family traveled across town many a Sunday night to get the Cavalier pizza.
When the Cavalier went suburban a dozen years ago, we followed it to its new location on Viers Mill Road between Rockville and Wheaton. Four years later, Jim Hance bought the Cavalier and renamed it Gentleman Jim's. y
Fortunately, Hance still serves the distinctive "Cavalier" pizza. It's always been square and "that still surprises customers," said our waitress. The pizza is bubbling and gooey with lots of mozzarella cheese. It's made with tart tomato pieces rather than a sweetened sauce puree and the crust, made on the premises, is very crisp. We ordered the combination pizza. With lots of finely chopped fresh sweet pepper, sausage, onions and anchovies, it was rich and satisfying.
At $3.95 for a large regualr pizza and $6.75 for a combination, the price is lower than the prices of pizza found elsewhere.
Over the years, the Hance family has built up a large menu of simple favorites which they've named after employes and friends. There's "Edna's Delight," an Italian sub for $1.75; "Joy's Hawaiian Hot Dog," a hot dog with cheese and pineapple on a sub, $1.95; "Barb's Bar-B-Que," $2.75, plus many more offerings.
There are "soups made at Jim's." The onion is rich, though a bit salty. Never mind that the cheese on top is provolone not gruyere. It's still good at $1.25.
The fried shrimp platter typifies Gentleman Jim's strengths. You get a half dozen shrimp, previously frozen and not jumbo size but cooked to order, with good french fries also cooked to order. There is enough lettuce and tomato on the platter to be a salad. It's not fancy, but it's crisp, tasty and nutritious. And at $3.50, it's a good buy.
No desserts are offered at Gentleman Jim's.
A family of four could share a first course, eat a large pizza, have draft beer for the adults and milk for the children for under $20, including tax and tip.