Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Atmosphere: Urbane comfort.

Price range: From $2.25 for a regular-size hot dog to $7.95 for a complete fried chicken dinner. Most hamburgers in $4 range.

Reservations: Not accepted.

Credit cards: American Express, Diner Club, VISA.

Special facilities: Highchairs and booster seats. Accessible to the handicapped. Nonsmoking section. Half-price parking in building.

When everything works well at Hamburger Hamlet, a family can enjoy the luxurious, red leather booths and relax with a perfectly orchestrated dinner. At other times, the service is unforgivably bad, the food only fair and the experience an expensive exasperation.

The menu's range is broad enough to satisfy different moods and tastes. Over the years we have worked our way through the large hamburgers that come complete with fries. They have always been top-quality burgers that have been truly a meal.

Follow the rules of the menu when you order; otherwise, there will be additional charges. Some dinner are accompanied by salads, some are not. Egg orders come with one croissant or one muffin; a second will cost you extra.

Our most recent Hamburger Hamlet night started propitiously, as the busyboy appeared with water almost before we were seated. Except for an initial delay in placing our orders because of a missing waitress, our food arrived fairly quickly and all the order turned out well.

We shared a platter of zucchini zircles ($2.75) to ease everyone's immediate hunger pangs. They arrived in a lukewarm, semisoggy state, lightly breaded and served with a sweet apricot sauce.

When the drinks arrived, the problems began. Our son tasted his 7-Up and shouted that it was "awful." I smiled as I guessed they had probably given him Seltzer water, but my husband ventured a sip and found that the drink was gin and tonic. At that precise moment, a waiter appeared, grabbed the drink without uttering a word and reappeared a moment later with the original request. He promptly left. Later, when the waitress served dinner, she, too, avoided comment on the episode. No laugh, no giggle, no apology: just nonchalance.

My husband's oak-planked hamburger steak ($6.95) was the closest order to a burger selection. The meat is topped with grilled onion and mushroom slices and served with a baked potato, a trip to the salad bar and a side dish of stewed tomatoes. The latter item is a strange addition to this meal, which also comes with two large pieces of thick bread that taste mildly of garlic.

The other meal served on a board is the Stella Nelson ($4.95) Special that our 7-Up youngster selected. The dinner includes a small dinner salad and a choice of soup -- either onion fondue, hot cheese or lobster bisque -- and half a sandwich -- either tuna, turkey ham or Muenster cheese.

He selected the onion fondue, a fine, dark broth filled with onions under a covering of bread and cheese. The tuna sandwich on pumpernickel was a large half-sandwich. He also was served a crisp bowl of romaine lettuce.

The other dinners proved just as successfull. Our daughter's bar wings ($4.95) were eight lightly breaded, moist chicken wings accompanied by that same thick, sweet apricot sauce. The breading was more amply peppered than that same order a week earlier at the restaurant's other location, but the same basic flavor was there.

The prison chili dinner ($4.95) is too good for its name. It is tantalizingly spicy and topped with sour cream, lettuce strips, cheese and onions. It, too, arrived with garlic bread, but this meal definitely should be accompanied by an adventurous salad. The large portion of chili is first-rate.

The salad bar, a new addition to the restaurant's menu, features fresh, crisp salad greens and vegetables.

Our dinners were served promptly. Everything was warm and of good quality, and the portions were adequate. We encountered few obstacles and were ready to share a childhood memory -- a tin roof sundae ($2.75). Dessert portions are generous, with ice cream creations leading the list.

Our dinner, including tax and tip, came to $38.85.