Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday at 8 a.m. for breakfast. Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Lunch served from 11 a.m., and food is served nightly until after midnight.

Atmosphere: Historical tavern decorated with big-game trophies.

Price range: Sandwiches average $4. Dinners range from $4.95 for quiche to $12.50 for a New York strip steak.

Reservations: No.

Credit cards: Most major.

Special features: Before and after-theater menus. No booster seats or high chairs. Wheelchair entry is possible but tables are very close. On-street parking only. Omelette Room.

Sometimes during the week it is just too difficult for the whole family to have dinner together. The combination of having to work late downtown or running off to an evening meeting makes eating at home less than desirable. Here is the perfect excuse to dine downtown.

Often people view The Old Ebbitt Grill as a luncheon spot, but its location makes it suitable for a comfortable dinner. The large crowd on a recent Tuesday attested to its popularity.

One may dine either upstairs or dwnstairs, but omelettes are served only in the Omelette Room upstairs. For children, the downstairs room, with its hunting trophies and antiques, is more of a showcase. On the wall are photographs of neighborhood street scenes from the 1800s. While you're waiting for dinner, you have an opportunity to tour Washington as it once was and read the accompanying literature on the status of the restaurant as a historical site.

The menu is heavily sandwich oriented, but there are quiches and other egg dishes, beef entrees and daily specials. Maybe it was the cold, windy night that inspired us to take the children beyond the realm of sandwiches and order a hearty, warming dinner.

There is no children's menu, but many of the items could easily be shared by two young children. There are also soups that could supplement such decisions.

Also, moving to the dinner side of the menu could move your tab into new dimensions. Small dinner salads are not available, nor do salads come with the entrees. The green salad a la carte, $1.95, is not that special, fancy or large. Bleu cheese is, of course, an extra.A perfectly acceptable ranch dressing is the house offering.

That night there were too many hungry diners for one harried waiter. He managed to remain friendly and as attentive as could be expected, under the circumstances.

As a matter of fact, he tried to discourage the children from ordering sodas, pointing out that juice and iced tea were available. He recognized that he was in a no-win situation and showed he was a good sport, by suggesting they might as well have Shirley Temples. As he said, "They're the same price and if you are going to indulge, you might as well add an orange to it."

Chicken vegetable soup was the day's special. It was representative of what a hearty-based tomato soup that has been properly seasoned is all about. Other Old Ebbitt outings have encountered equally hearty stocks.

Chili afficionados never have difficulty making a choice here. Yet, sampling a bowl ($2.75) makes the necessity of anything else questionable.

The children shared the baked French onion soup ($2.95). This is always a winning broth that is well-onioned and encrusted with cheese.

There are not a lot of other appetizers, but with soup first, dinner comes too quickly. The service needs a little orchestration.

Our son's London broil ($7.25) was a large, thick portion of flank steak that had been marinated, broiled and covered with a mushroom sauce that had a faint wine taste. It can be had with cottage fries instead of a baked potato.

The cottage fries are a trademark of restaurants in the Clyde's chain, but the inconsistency in their degree of doneness is often a problem. When they are just right, they are terrific.

My husband dubbed his eggs benedict ($4.95) "eggs hollandaise." Someone has had a very heavy hand with the sauce, and the tastes of the other ingredients were smothered.

I shared the filet mignon bearnaise ($5.95) with our daughter. This is an entree we have shared before, for it consists of two tiny filets served on toasted English muffins with a bean sprout topping and a thin layer of Bernaise sauce.

As with the London broil, our filets were perfectly prepared. Tonight's bernaise was not as warm as it should have been, but that detracted only slightly from the entree.

Selecting one of the large hamburgers or a sandwich is probably a recommended course for future outings, regardless of outside temperatures. All items from the large sandwich list have proven to be high-quality food, and portions are generous.

Saving room for pecan pie is an important consideration when ordering at the Ebbitt. The waiter obliged my husband's request just to warm the pie rather than heat it until it was bubbling hot. He says hot pie is too sweet, and the pleasure of the flavor is lost.

The children each chose ice cream. As with all items on the menu, the ice cream portions are large. In this case, three scoops filled the bowl, justifing the price, $1.50. Perhaps one scoop for a lesser cost might be a wiser move.

Our bill for four, including cocktails, sodas and tax, was $40.29 for three dinner entrees. Selecting sandwiches would have cut the cost considerably.

The Old Ebitt Grill is a wonderful place to meet for a downtown dinner any day of the week, or after a day on the Mall. After all, it is almost an edible history lesson.