The Cedar Inn in Vienna is one of those small neighborhood restaurants every neighborhood would like to have -- distinctly unfancy but comfortable.
The tone is bluntly casual, the food is good and the service is friendly and efficient.
As much as anything, the Inn seems like an old roadhouse or pub, with its dim lighting, oilcloth-covered tables and dark paneling. But it is a wholesome pub, with families full of hamburger-munching children seated next to single adults enjoying a leisurely dinner.
The Cedar Inn menu offers good solid American fare: beef, chops, ham, chicken and fried seafood. There also are two or three Italian dishes. Children can order spaghetti fried chicken, shrimp or roast beef at reduced prices, and there are enough sandwich or pizza choices to please even the pickiest eaters. A trip to the salad bar and warm dinner rolls are included with adult entrees.
We found the salad bar standard but adequate. Although there was nothing unusual about it, there was one interesting item -- a weight-watcher's Italian dressing with only six calories per serving.
The Tuesday night we were there, the Inn was doing a steady business. We were concerned about time since we had promised to be elsewhere by 8 o'clock, but we needn't have worried. Service at the Cedar Inn is as brisk as its business.
Our younger daughters ordered fried shrimp from the children's menu. At $4.75, it was the most expensive choice they could have made. But it was well prepared and there were more shrimp than usual for children's fries accompanying their shrimp, and with plastic pink elephants stuck into cherries in their cokes, both girls were quite happy with their dinners.
Our older daughter ordered sliced roast beef au jus, $6.75. If the other beef dishes at the Cedar Inn are as good, they are well worth a recommendation. Her meat was thinly sliced, tender and flavorful.
The broiled lamb chops ($7.75) I ordered were equally good, juicy and served medium rare as I had asked. But my baked potato, and my daughter's, apparently had been sitting around the kitchen a while and weren't as good as the meats.
In deference to those who want to avoid fried foods, Cedar Inn offers a couple of broiled or sauteed seafood dishes. The waitress told us all the seafood was frozen, but my husband decided to try sauteed shrimps and scallops, $8.25. It was the least satisfying of the dishes we sampled. For some reason the shrimp were smaller than the ones the girls were eating, and the lemon butter they had been cooked in seemed flavorless. Broiled meats seem to be the best bet at the Cedar Inn.
Dessert is another exercise in Americana. There is chocolate pudding, jello and applesauce, in addition to a creame de menthe parfait, which the menu warns will be sold to adults only. Or have a chocolate eclair or World's Best cheesecake. To my knowledge, my daughters have never yet passed up an opportunity to eat a gooey eclair, and they didn't that night either. It was a good bakery variety, as was the pecan pie I ordered.
Atmosphere: A comfortable neighborhood pub.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.
Price range: $2.95 for sandwiches to $12.25 for a 14 oz. steak. Most dinners in the $6-to-$8 range.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: American Express, Diner's Club, MasterCard and Visa.
Special facilities: Easy parking in shopping center lot; accessible to handicapped if curb from parking lot can be negotiated; boosters and high chairs available.