Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11:30-2:30; Saturday, noon to 3. Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m. Brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Atmosphere: Railroad Americana; casual or dressy attire.
Price Range: Dinner entrees, $7.95 to $13.95; children's menu, $3.95 for a complete dinner.
Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercharge, American Express.
Special Facilities: Highchairs and booster seats; accessible for handicapped.
We are looking for a restaurant where four adults could talk throughout a leisurely meal while two active boys -- ages 9 and 7 -- could be happily entertained. At Victoria Station in Fairfax we found all that we were looking for at just the right time -- the first night of a visit by my in-laws.
Victoria Station offers an authentic bit of railroad nostalgia right in the heart of Fairfax's suburban sprawl.
From the railroad tracks in the parking lot to the caboose and parlor cars in the restaurant, Victoria Station provides a relaxed step backward into a time when railroad was king. That's a time today's children are not too familiar with, so the restaurant's abundance of railroad antiques offers them plenty of interesting diversions. There are fare cards to examine, signs to read and an assortment of memorabilia to explore.
Meals are served in the "station" itself, in the caboose or in the parlor car. The cars are actually situated on tracks which lead into the parking lot.
We ate by railroad lantern light in the caboose, an experience that stimulated my younger son's imagination: "What happens if we stay too long and they roll the cars out of here?" he asked. We told him to relax, something we all did easily, aided by the prompt and pleasant waitresses and busboys.
Dinners include a choice of soup or salad bar. Beef barley soup was rich with chunks of meat and French onion soup, covered with a layer of cheese, was excellent. The salad bar's lettuce and toppings were crisp, fresh and cold.
Victoria Station takes pride in its prime ribs, which are available for inspection while they age in a huge freezer called "Pandora's Box." There are three cuts offered -- a 11-ounce for $8.95, a 20-ounce for $10.95 and a 28-ounce for $13.95.
My wife and her father ordered the 11-ounce portion. A huge, lean portion of meat arrived hot and cooked to order. It certainly looked like more than 11 ounces and my father-in-law, after finishing, said, "I don't see how anyone could eat much more."
The mother-in-law ordered an 11-ounce sirloin steak ($9.95). My older son called his 7-ounce sirloin steak "some of the best steak I've ever eaten." His steak cost $3.95, as do all selections from Victoria Station's children's menu. The price covers a choice of beverages (Cherry Caboose -- cherry juice, cola, ice and cherries -- was popular), salad bar, entree and rice or potato.
My younger son chose barbecued beef ribs, which turned out to be monstrous. He devoured one and was full, which was fine with everyone else who took turns nibbling at the remaining two ribs. They were tender and just spicy enough. The adult portion of ribs includes five for $7.95, and it would be a delicious challenge to finish them.
Although Victoria Station is big on beef, I chose "Southport Seafare" -- sole, stuffed with crab, shrimp and cheese ($8.95). I grudgingly gave all the adults a taste and they all agreed -- it was the best of a very good selection of entrees.
A side order of breaded fried zucchini ($1.50) was a treat.
There are only two desserts offered -- chocolate mousse and cheesecake, both $1.50 -- but after the main course in Victoria Station, they are destined to be anticlimatic no matter how good they are.
There's only one thing missing from Victoria Station -- a Pullman car where diners can go to sleep off a great meal.
The ticket fare for six was $68, tip included. The price for two adults and two children would have been about $40, including tip.