Hours: 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 4 p.m. to midnight Sundays.
Price range: Sandwiches $1.25 to $3.40; dinners $5 to $9.50.
Atmosphere: Warm and friendly.
Credit cards: None. Checks on local banks accepted.
Special facilities: Plenty of parking space in rear. Booster seats and high chairs. No children's menu, but plates provided for sharing portions. Not easily accessible by wheelchair because of stairs leading to entrance.
You probably won't find a neighborhood place warmer, cozier or friendlier than Chris'. It's the kind of unpretentious restaurant more typical of midwest towns than of the Washington area.
Inside it's dark and noisy. Families know they can pop in on a Sunday night, sink into the red vinyl booths in their jeans, talk as much as they want without disturbing the peace and eat very simple American dishes at what remain reasonable prices.
The place radiates hominess without hokeyness. Even though there's a big horseshoe-shaped bar up front, it's not at all rowdy. You hear sports scores avidly discussed while the game plays on big-screen TV overhead. Authographed photographs of Redskins players crowd the walls and trophies balance on every shelf.
The restaurant has been a favorite of Gaithersburg for about 15 years. There's usually a line out front by 6 on Sundays. For a long time, Chris himself, a big, hulking man, could usually be found on the premises looking after things.
He wasn't there on a recent Sunday evening, and we wished he had been. A few supervisory touches from the boss might have cleared up some blemishes that could easily be remedied.
The menu is varied, but steak is the specialty of the house.The family can eat nicely simply by ordering the steak sandwich specials. They are made with fresh boneless rib eye that is tender and very tasty.
A good choice is the king, a nice-sized piece of steak with melted mozzarella, fried onions and mushrooms on a long sesame twist roll $3.40. It's good, but this time it was greasier than it should have been.
A plain rib eye sandwich platter with cole slaw and french fries is $3.75.
One can go the fancier route by ordering sirloin ($7.75), T-bone or porterhouse (each $9.50). All come with potato and salad.
The quality of the meat is good and tasty, though each piece could benefit by more trimming of fat.
Every so often, prime rib shows up in the menu at the tempting price of $7.50. That buys a filling slab of meat with a spicy, garlicky crust, plus fries and salad.Again, the meat could have been better trimmed, but the dish is most tasty and tender.
The large, chunky fries that accompany any meal at Chris' are not made from scratch (you can hardly find that anymore). But they are quickly cooked to order, helpings are generous and the result is pleasing enough.
Chris' has seafood, too: fried clams, crab cakes, scallops, oysters and shrimp.
All are prepared from frozen seafood. The best dish is the jumbo shrimp platter. The shrimp are bought fresh, cleaned and batter-dipped at Chris' and then frozen in small batches, ready to be deep-fried to order. The result has been consistently sweet and crunchy. With french fries and cole slaw, this is a satisfying dish for two young children to share. Cost $6.75.
Pizza is also offered, although our waitress said, "it's not our specialty."
Salads could be improved. Right now they are made of shredded iceberg lettuce, with a few slices of cumcumber and carrots thrown in.
Waitresses readily supply extra plates for sharing. Service is quick, but tables should have been fully cleared before ice cream desserts were served.
Waitresses are chatty and pleasant; they give the impression that it's fun to work at Chris' and serve a room full of families.
Chris' is a nice place to visit on a blustery winter night. Order carefully, don't expect haute gourment, and enjoy yourself with the kids without having to break the bank to do it.