Atmosphere: Comfortable and relaxed, but no jeans, please.
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday; closed Monday.
Price Range: $4.45 for chopped beefsteak to $12.95 for lobster tail. Most dishes $6.45 to $7.95.
Reservations: A good idea during peak hours.
Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercharge, Diner's Club, American Express.
Special Facilities: Small parking lot behind the restaurant; front entrance accessible to handicapped; boosters available; cocktail menu and carryout (5 percent extra).
A sense of deja vu was what we took home from a recent Sunday night dinner at the Cafe Burgundy. This long-established neighborhood restaurant is well-known on upper Connecticut Avenue, where a local clientele keeps it humming at dinner time.
It is old-fashioned, and a bit faded, like a leftover set from an early 40s movie. You almost expect to see Claudette Colbert, in a crisp summer dress and spectator shoes, sipping a drink at a small table while waiting for Ronald Coleman.
In the main dining room the booths are covered in quilted pearl-white vinyl and the walls are painted, of course, burgundy. A mirrored bar dominates the back wall. In other ways, too, Cafe Burgundy is reminiscent of an era before restaurants, food and diners became more sophisticated. If there is nothing fancy about the place, the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. Diners recognize each other and stop to say hello.
The menu offers steaks, seafood, salad plates and daily specials at reasonable prices. Ordering a complete dinner will get you soup to nuts for an all-inclusive price, a good buy if you order the right thing. You do have to be careful; there are too many offerings for the kitchen to do them all well.
Despite the Burgundian theme and a few French dishes (pate, beef burgundy and coq au vin), the food is overwhelmingly American, and you will be better off ordering simple, straighforward selections. Sandwiches are available and children's dinners may be ordered for $1 off the regular price.
We ordered complete dinners and so sampled a range of appetizers, entrees and desserts. To begin, we had fruit cup (safe), vegetable soup (greasy and rather mediocre in flavor) and a house pate with a strange texture -- not unlike cooked scrapple. Stick to fruit cup or tomato juice.
Two vegetables came with our entrees. We all had ordered salads and they appeared next: some rather pedestrian shredded greens, cabbage and carrots covered with bottled dressings. The house dressing seemed to be a commercial French with crumbled bleu cheese in it -- not much to write home about. The vegetable of the day, a crisp broccoli looked appetizing and properly cooked. Try the broccoli.
Our main courses amounted to two hits, two swings and a miss. Our 9-year-old twins ordered one children's platter of fried shrimp, $6.95, and one of fried chicken, $4.95, both with french fries. One complained that some shrimp were chewy, which means overcooked, and the other that her chicken was dry -- again overdone.
My husband asked for frog legs saute a la provencale, $7.95. The dish looked as if the frog legs had been gently sauteed, but they, too, were dry and overcooked and lacked the seasoning usually indicated by "a la provencale." Stay away from fried foods.
I love lamb and couldn't forgo the Sunday evening special; roast leg of lamb, $7.95. I wasn't disappointed, my large serving of meat was juicy and tender, if done a little more than I like. Unfortunately, the mashed potatoes that came with it had come out of a box.
Our 13-year-old daughter had the best instincts of all for the Cafe Burgundy's kitchen. She ordered a club sirloin steak with french fried onion rings and baked potato, $7.95. Her potato arrived hot and fluffy, the steak tender and cooked to her medium-rare order. Amid our comments of "chewy" and "dry," she kept saying she loved what had been served.
For dessert we sampled vanilla ice cream, apple pie and lemon meringue pie which our waitress candidly told us was Mrs. Smith's.
The moral of this story is if you should happen into the Cafe Burgundy, do as Claudette Colbert would have done in a small U.S. neighborhood spot in 1943: order tomato juice, club steak, baked potato, vegetable, apple pie and coffee. Dinner will be good with or without Ronald Coleman. Our tab for five was $41.20, not including tip.