Atmosphere: Colonial.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Price range: $2.50 to $6.75.

Reservations: Not necessary.

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, VISA.

Special facilities: Parking in mall lots; accessible by wheelchair from second level of mall; high chairs and booster seats available; cocktail menu.

One of the newer area shopping centers, Lakeforest Mall, has a variety of restaurants to ease shoppers' hunger. The Proud Popover is one of the more comfortable and pleasant among them, particularly if you're tired of the confusion and noise usually found in fast-food restaurants.

Under the aegis of the Quaker Oats Co. and The Magic Pan chain, The Proud Popover is one of those contemporary restaurants so slickly packaged that its formula must have come out of a computer: a well-decorated dining room, a gimmicky, cute menu that leans heavily to quiche, deli sandwiches and burgers, and a penchant for liqueur-and-ice cream desserts. These places have both virtues and faults, and The Proud Popover has some of each.

One of the best things is the atmosphere. As perfectly appointed as a model apartment. The Proud Popover is nicely decorated in the colonial manner, with traditional wallpaper and cranberry-colored paint on the moldings. Williamsburg floral prints decorate the walls, shiny copper pots and stoneware rest on a rather new-looking brick hearth. With candlelight and straw flowers on the wooden tables and rustic chandeliers hanging from the beam ceiling, the tavern ambience is complete.

For the menu motif, The Proud Popover has taken Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. Thus one can order a Sleepy Hollow salad, a Van Tassel omelette or Katrina's noodle salad, as well as Ichabod's specialties. t

It is essentially a California-style menu with an interesting wrinkle or two. One can, for instance, order a Half and Half; half a sandwich with either a bowl of soup or a salad to go with it. Tavern burgers, broiled to order, are served plain for $2.95; toppings of cheese, bacon, ham or mushrooms cost an additional 25 to 60 cents per item. Four dinners and a special of the day also are offered.

There are no children's dinners, so 10-year-old Amy, who wanted honey-dipped fried chicken, had to order a full-size dinner at $5.25. Our other daughters were happy with sandwiches: roast beef on a kaiser roll, $2.75, and a plain hamburger, $2.95, both of which came with a choice of fries, cole slaw or potato salad.The kitchen had run out of fries and both slaw and potato salad were out, said our daughter, so the hamburger had to stand on its own, without even a potato chip on the side. It would have been nice if someone had offered a substitute, but the kitchen isn't programmed for that sort of extra.

My husband ordered London broil, $6.25, and I decided to try a stuffed pork chop, at $6.75. All dinners are served with rice, shredded and nicely cooked zuchini and carrots, and a basket of warm popovers.

Our entrees were all right but nothing out of the ordinary. Some details needed attention. My pork chop had a slit in it but no stuffing inside. The gravy had lumps a food processor easily could have eliminated. Worst of all, the pork was underdone. The London broil rated an "okay"; the chicken, on the other hand, was juicy on the inside, crispy outside and delicious all over. The hamburger was cooked as ordered. Apparently, uncomplicated fare is the best bet at The Proud Popover.

In addition to cooking with more care, the kitchen needs to improve its efficiency. Our very pleasant waitress was as attentive as we could have wished, but every time she headed for the kitchen, things dragged.

The popovers were fun. Our waitress delivered them, crusty and puffy, with a dish of butter and a pot of honey, while we waited for our food. Everybody enjoyed them.

For dessert, we shared cheesecake, $1.95, a chocolate sundae, $1.50, and a slice of grasshopper pie, $1.60, which is made with creme de menthe.

Our overall impression: while there is nothing original about The Proud Popover, it is a good source of simple food when you need a break from shopping and can afford to dawdle a bit. Our bill for five was $41.86, tax and tip included.