Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday.

Atmosphere: Casual, diner-style.

Price Range: $1.09 for Kids' Stuff (children 12 and under); sandwiches from $1.30 to $2.80.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Credit Cards: Cash only.

Special Features: High chairs and booster seats; ice cream desserts; accessible to the handicapped.

Dinner out sounds good, but no one feels like dressing up or going anyplace where a meal is an ordeal. You don't want to incur the national debt paying for dinner, but you don't want typical fast food fare either. What you want is a relaxing place with decent food and reasonable prices.

Such searches have led us to Friendly's in Herndon a number of times. The food is tasty, the service generally quick, the ice cream desserts (Friendly's specialities) generous and the prices right.

On a recent visit, our family of four quickly found seats in a booth off the winding diner-style counter. We were dressed appropriately for the rainy weather, which meant we were dressed appropriately for Friendly's.

Friendly's offers a variety of grilled sandwiches (burgers, clams, ham, fish filet) plus shrimp, tuna and egg salad. Food is served a la carte or on platters. Platters -- including a sandwich, fries, cole slaw and cottage cheese or lettuce and tomato -- range from $1.70 for a hot dog platter to $2.55 for a clam boat platter.

For appetizers, we tried New England chowder and chili. The chowder was creamy and thick, and my son, not a big soup fan, proclaimed it "tasty" -- high praise from that critic.

The chili was zesty and thick, but it was only lukewarm. Still, for 90 cents, it was a satisfying meal opener.

My sons both ordered a $1.09 "Kid Stuff" platter consisting of hamburger, french fries and a soft drink. A hot dog or grilled cheese sandwhich can be ordered instead of hamburger with the Kid Stuff special.

Friendly's burgers, which are cooked to order, were juicier and thicker than those found at the boys' favorite fast food restaurant.

While Kid Stuff is available for folks aged 12 and under, I doubt if it would be enough food to satisfy anyone over 10. But the 10 and under crowd, Kid Stuff plus dessert makes an ample meal at a reasonable price.

My wife ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwhich with fries ($1.95). As are most Friendly sandwiches, it was served on toast. The ham was sliced thin and stacked high, surrounded by melted cheese. It proved filling.

The clam roll platter ($2.25) was my choice. It was served in "Nedick's-style" roll -- a crispy kind of crusted bread that is long like a hot dog roll. The clams were tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside -- more than slightly reminiscent of good boardwalk food.

The cole slaw was good but there was not much of it. The french fries, were the meal's low point. While the rest of the food at Friendly's has some tasty originality, the fries are run-of-the-mill. They are almost an afterthought when they could be an added highlight to the meal.

Above all, Friendly's is an ice cream dessert place. Friendly's is generous with its rich ice cream, from its cones to its belly-expanding Jim Dandy ($1.65 for a whole banana surrounded by four scoops of ice cream, strawberry, marshmallow and chocolate toppings, crowned with whip cream, nuts and sprinkles).

An abundance of sundaes are available at 90 cents or $1.05. Most kids, even my ice cream frenzied 6-year-old, will find the 90 cent sundaes filling and most adults should find the $1.05 sundaes enough to arouse guilt feelings. The $1.05 butterscotch sundae with the standard three scoops of Friendly's ice cream was more than enough for me.

And even such a hot fudge fan as my wife finds finishing the 90 cent version at Friendly's formidable.

The total tab, including tip, was $14.40.