Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Price Range: Appetizers, $3 to $4 range. Entrees, $10 and up.
Atmosphere: Pleasant and cordial.
Special facilities: Booster and high chairs.
Credit Cards: Visa; MasterCharge; Carte Blanche; American Express; Diners.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Hoping to break away from the ring of fast food franchise outlets and sub shops that encircles the Lanham area, we hoped the Seafarer in the Lanham Ramada Inn might be different.
Its name and advertising suggest good seafood, something not easy to find anywhere but completely absent from the Lanham-Landover-Laurel area.
Although the Ramada Inn is undergoing extensive renovation, the Seafarer has not been affected.
The restaurant is pleasant, but nondescript. You might be in any of hundreds of standard hotel restaurants: clean, quiet, too dark and uninteresting. The only hint of a nautical theme is a ship's wheel and padded captain's chairs.
The menu sounded lovely and very inviting. But its length indicated that too wide a range of foods was available: No kitchen does everything well. How is a customer to know what's best at a place like this?
Selections range from plenty of seafood dishes (platters, stuffed sole, snapper amandine) to beef specialties such as chateaubriand and steak Diane to veal dishes such as veal Oscar, and then on to fried chicken and even duck.
At this point, your eyebrows may have risen skeptically as you asked yourself how many of these dishes are now in a semi-prepared state in the freezer, awaiting rapid thawing and cooking on the way to your plate?
The appetizers (including snails, oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail and mushroom dishes) seem lovely -- on the menu. But the clams casino were too rubbery to swallow, their breaded topping heavy and dry. And the golden fried artichokes Athenian, which sounded too interesting to pass up, turned out to be chunks of mushy canned artichokes deep fried in a tasteless batter. The onion soup was so sweet it could almost have been a dessert.
Salad bars seem to have become a new social institution, a way to occupy the diner while he or she is waiting for the meal.
The one at the Seafarer was sorely deficient: wilted iceberg lettuce sat next to tasteless potato salad and cole slaw. No oil and vinegar were provided, only cloying canned dressings.
There was no way for a diner to divine which of the many seafood dishes might be worthwhile. Our very pleasant and attentive waitress suggested that "anything with crab in it is fresh, as is the fish of the day."
Crab imperial was flecked with bits of red and green sweet peppers, and the portion served in a scallop shell was abundant. But the crab itself was not chunky nor particularly sweet, and it was overwhelmed by its mayonnaise and breadcrumb binding.
The catch of the day was salmon, simply broiled and pleasant.
Surprisingly, the best dishes on the menu turned out to be made of beef. The prime rib was tender, tasty and generous. New York strip steak was of equally good quality.
The Seafarer has a very good quality menu, though the place is perhaps best suited to the traveling businessman staying at the hotel. But there are plenty of booster chairs and highchairs, and children seem welcome. For $3.25, they can choose among hamburger, fried chicken, roast beef or filet of fish, plus salad, milk and ice cream.
But the children's meals reflected in miniature what we had observed about the adult's dinners: beef is better than fish at the Seafarer. A large chopped sirloin hamburger really did taste as though it had been ground from fresh sirloin. It was delicious, almost too large for a young child to finish. But the fish filet was a pathetic piece of frozen fish, cut in chunks and fried with the skin on. It was reasonably good, but had not been salted.
Desserts for the adults were overly cold slices of pies neither fresh nor tasty.
The prices, though not exhorbitant, would have been acceptable if the food had been fresh, especially the fish.