Atmosphere: Cozy European-style cafe. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily; closed Sunday. Price Range: $3.50 to $7.50. Credit Card: MasterCard and Visa. Reservations: Available. Special Facilities: Accessible to the physically handicapped.
We arrived at Cafe Rondo on the run -- refugees from another restaurant. We started out at a Dupont Circle restaurant which, on the basis of a pleasant lunch, my husband and I thought would be a nice place to take the kids for dinner. The luncheon and dinner menu were the same; the prices were modest; the food good.
Unfortunately, when we arrived with two children, the big dining room was closed for renovations and the smaller dining area was a smoky bar reverberating to the beat of rock music. We felt uncomfortable and my daughter, 14, was adamant: She did not want to have dinner in what she perceived to be a singles bar.
That left us footloose and hungry in Dupont Circle at 7 o'clock on a Tuesday night. We spotted Cafe Rondo and it was a haven: quiet and calm, with piped-in classical guitar music.
Cafe Rondo's sidewalk cafe is enclosed in plastic this time of year, well heated and filled with small tables for twos and threes. Inside, there are two dining areas. One, off to the side, has again, small tables and a very intimate atmosphere. The other, in the main section of the restaurant, has larger tables encased by curving banquettes. Just the thing for a family of four.
We settled in and were pleasantly surprised by the menu. The selections were interesting and the prices, modest. There were Nicoise, chef, fruit, avacado, chicken and seafood salads for $4.25 to $5.95.
The Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches -- croque monsieur, eggs and anchovy, herring, shrimp, roast beef, blue cheese with eggs, chicken, salami and onion -- were $3.25 to $4.75.
The entrees were only slightly higher in price: beef Lindstrom (chopped steak with beets, capers and fried egg) was $5.50; seafood crepe, $6.25; London broil, $5.95; sirloin steak, $7.50 and swedish meatballs, $5.50. There were also omelets for $3.95 to $5.25. With prices like that and a soothing pleasant atmosphere, we were feeling we'd lucked into a happy landing.
We were further encouraged by the onion soup, $2, with which our son started his dinner. It came in the usual crock and was covered with a thick layer of cheese that had been broiled to just the right outer crispness. The broth was rich and chock full of onions. Even the bread in the soup was delicious. We gave the onion soup an excellent rating.
The rolls our waiter brought to the table had rich crusts and well-textured insides. Though we prefer warm rolls, these, though cool, were good.
On the main courses, Cafe Rondo scored well on three out of four dishes. My son's cheese omelet, $4.25, was well prepared, piping hot and accompanied by weak, overly thick french fries potatoes and a crisp salad of romaine lettuce and nicely ripe tomato.
My daughter's hot roast beef sandwich, with mushroom gravy served on the side ($4.75), also came off very well. The roll had been buttered and toasted and crisped. One side of the open sandwich was covered with neat slices of tomato; the other, with thinly and beautifully cut slices of medium rare roast beef. Out daughter, who generally prefers ketchup to gravy, was converted into a mushroom gravy fan. It was so good, she insisted we all try it. Her sandwich also came with a salad and the french fries.
I had the salad Nicoise, $4.50 Bib and romaine lettuce set off tuna mixed with pimento, hard-boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, parboiled green beans, anchovy and black olives. The freshness of the tuna, the crispness of the beans, and the excellent vinegarette dressing made the salad a winner.
There was one problem. My husband's Spanish omelet, $4.25, was so hotly spiced that he could not eat it. It tasted as though someone with a heavy hand was manning the Tabasco sauce.
Our waiter was very obliging about taking it away, no question asked, and replacing it with a requested plain omelet.
Desserts at Cafe Rondo are displayed in a circular plastic case that slowly revolves with its temptations. Our children had their eyes on the eclair and Napoleon -- there was also chocolate mousse, cheesecake and other French pastries -- and our waiter brought them promptly plus a third pastry which he said was "on the house." It certainly made us forgive and forget the unfortunate Spanish omelet.
So did our bill. Excluding the tip, it came to $29, and that included food plus a glass of wine, glass of milk, soda and tax.