Hours: Monday through Saturday: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner from 4 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Sunday: dinner from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Atmosphere: Frenetic cafeteria for lunch. Quiet, candlelight for dinner.
Price range: Dinner from $4.99 for a hamburger to $8.99 for ribs or steak. Luncheon prices are greatly reduced.
Reservations: For parties of six or more.
Credit cards: Visa and Master Card.
Special features: Entrance accessible to persons in wheelchairs. Children's seats. Cafeteria-style for lunch. Carry-out available. Next door to the Metro. Free indoor parking next door after 6 p.m.
Everyone is always searching for good old North Carolina barbecue pits. How about barbecue Chicago-style, which means slow, oven cooking and a quick trip over the hot grill?
As any self-respecting Chicago diner knows, ribs are big business. They are served in fancy surroundings as a part of a complete restaurant that features a few other items for the uninformed.
Mark Alan's, next door to the Rosslyn Metro, is a full-scale restaurant with a split personality. At lunch-time it fills the needs of the hungry office throngs with self-service cafeteria food.
At 4 p.m. as Rosslyn starts to slow down, waiters use the cafeteria line to fill their table orders and customers relax in a candlelit room.
When the decision was made to introduce Washington to full-scale restaurants specializing in sticky finger foods, the management decided to accommodate the wary. Napkins are of the thick terry variety that hold up under all rib-tickling delights. Later, the waiter will bring you a hot towel to help you wipe away any traces of indulgence.
There are other nice surprises waiting for you. In an attempt to resolve the dinner salad vs. salad bar argument, the lazy susan salad was created.
A lovely bowl of fresh greens surrounded by individual bowls of condiments is brought to your table. You can spin your own complete salad without interfering with any one else's dinner hour.
Accompanying the salad are thick slices of garlic bread that have received a melted butter-and-parsley treatment. The bread is appropriately called Texas toast, and will quickly fill the children if you do not exercise some influence.
These are all the real pluses of the restaurant, but there are some problems. For instance, there is no children's menu, a must for Family Outers.
Our son's great burger ($4.99) flunked the name test. It more appropriately resembled a hamburger that had been prepared for the luncheon crowd and waited in the wings until dinner reheat time.
My bar-b-que sandwich ($4.99) is the only other sandwich on the dinner menu. It was an exceptionally large portion of thinly sliced round roast that did not succeed in full-bodied barbecue flavoring. Its worst fault was the fat and grizzle. A smaller, leaner portion should be substituted.
My mother's boneless New York sirloin ($7.99) amounted to a small portion of very unexciting seasoned beef.
The remaining dinners show that Mark Alan's has a successful formula with ribs and chicken. Our daughter's Loving Couple ($7.99) put together two of barbeque's best: A quarter of chicken and four meaty ribs. With both items, the effect of first baking slowly and then heating quickly on the grill took hold and left a product that required no further sauce. They had been delicately basted without a residue of thick sauce.
My husband was pleased that baby back ribs ($8.99) were available. These lean, meaty, moist ribs were a hearty portion. They did not need the accompanying container of tabasco-inspired sauce.
Probably the best surprise are the thinly sliced fries. They are light and not greasy. Baked potatoes are available, but these are real fries.
We decided against trying one of the desserts from the beautiful pastry cart, because we were having a lot of trouble being recognized by our formerly attentive waiter. We were the last people in the back room and the front room had started to bustle. We literally had to go find him and wait while he tabulated the check.
There are plenty of places in town a family can go and enjoy sandwiches and steaks, but few that offer comfortable surroundings and first-class ribs. Concentrate on the latter and Rosslyn will have a new meaning.
Our dinner for five which included beers and soft drinks came to $46.51, including tax and tip.