Atmosphere: Victorian saloon.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Food served until 11 p.m. or midnight.
Price range: $1.95 to $4.50 for burgers, omelettes and sandwiches.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
Special facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs.
To commuters, Tenley Circle is a major bus transfer point and a future subway stop. To residents of Northwest and Bethesda and Chevy Chase in Maryland, it's a neighborhood hangout for movies, pizza and beer.
To my daughter, however, it's where she goes for dance lessons twice a week. It was while she was happily dancing away that she noticed the little restaurant around the corner had been transformed from a drab, aging Mr. Henry's to a sprightly new Winsor McKay's.
What's more, the smell of onions cooking was driving her crazy, especially on Wednesday nights when I was late picking her up. She and the rest of the kids in her dance class wanted to know more about the new place.
I called ahead to make sure we wouldn't be stumbling into a swinging-singles scene. The manager assured me children were welcome and that they would love the menu because it featured omelettes, hamburgers and fried onion rings. He cautioned us to come early in the evening, explaining that by 9:30 or so, music comes on and the scene gets heavier.
The exterior was inviting enough: dark wood, lots of windows, cornices that had been painted cherry red, bright yellow and kelly green. Inside, a bar was in one room and the dining area in another, cavernous room painted a rich brown and highlighted by Tiffany-style lamps and electrified gas lamps. Green checked tablecloths, a potted palm, carved wood around the windows also added warm notes.
The manager was right about the menu's appeal. Not only were there lots of selections for kids, the prices were wonderfully reasonable. Hamburgers started at $1.95; omelettes at $3.10; and sandwiches at $3.25. It was not an overwhelming menu in terms of choice but, then, we didn't particularly want to spend half an hour reading. The burgers came with some of the usual variations -- cheese, bacon -- and some unusual toppings such as guacamole, pizza sauce with fried onions and mushrooms.
Our son, a vegetarian, also had several alternatives. In addition to plain, cheese or mushroom omelettes, there was a Little Nemo sandwich, $4.25, which combined avocado, Swiss cheese, bean sprouts, onions, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise on an onion roll.
The sandwiches, but not the burgers, came with fries. We figured that would leave us room for a basket of fried onion rings, $3.50. We should have taken the half-basket, $1.75, because the whole basket was a huge platter heaped four inches high with onion rings. They were superb rings -- light, lacy, barely breaded and gorgeously crisp. They couldn't have been better, and get our vote for best onion rings in Washington.
The hamburgers were also oversized and served on onion rolls. My daughter tried the burger with Swiss cheese and bacon, $3.30. She ordered it medium and it came out well done, but she thought it was delicious and managed to finish two-thirds of it.
I tried the burger McKay, $3.20, which came with fried onions, cheese and mushrooms. The onions were nicely sauteed and buttery; the mushrooms were few and far between. I ordered the burger rare; it came out medium. It was a decent burger but not juicy enough for my taste.
My son's Little Nemo was anything but little. The fresh bean sprouts made it appear larger than life and they, along with chunks of raw onion, gave the sandwich sharpness and crispness.
My husband's sandwich, a western, $3.95, also came with large chunks of raw onion and was served on a robust wheat bread.
The fries served with the sandwiches were pencil-thin and fried to a very appetizing dark brown. Unfortunately, they lacked oomph.
The burgers, sandwiches and wonderful onion rings left us with no room for dessert, which was fortunate, since Winsor McKay's doesn't serve any as yet. Our waiter told us the menu was going to be expanded to include dessert and perhaps a Sunday brunch.
Our bill for two burgers, two sandwiches, one beer, one wine and one soda was $23.05, including tip.