It often seems difficult to find a place to party where the bill will not leave the family budget in a shambles. If you can reorient your thinking to a celebration brunch instead of dinner, La Mancha, a pretty restaurant just off I-95 in Alexandria, will see you through with champagne, comfort and style.
La Mancha is fairly small, but the soft blues, mirrored walls and tufted banquettes in its dining room provide low-key elegance. Every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., La Mancha devotes its efforts to brunch, offering patrons as much as they want of several dishes for $6.25 per adult and $3.25 per child. All the champagne you can drink is an additional $2.25 per person.
Our twin daughters were especially taken with the half-moon shaped couch and table where we were seated.
Our waiter invited us to visit the fruit bar at the other end of the room and explained that when we had finished that course, he would take our entree orders. The selections at the fruit bar included orange, grapefruit and tomato juices, a fresh fruit salad and a hot fruit compote. There also were wedges of honeydew melon and cantaloupe with prosciutto and fresh pineapple. Two crumb pastries, lemon and blueberry, were very good but would have been better served at room temperature rather than cold. The fruit bar included a board of cheddar and jarlsburg cheeses.
Instead of the buffet arrangement usually used at brunch, at La Mancha a waiter or waitresss serves the main course. The list includes eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs, omelets, Canadian bacon, sausage steak Quixote, potatoes La Mancha and English muffins. Servings are moderate, so you needn't feel guilty about sampling several, and you may reorder as often as you wish.
Among the four of us we sampled everything and liked it all, although none of the dishes was outstanding. The hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict was thin and not very rich; the Canadian bacon was sliced too thin, and the cheese in the omelet tasted as if it had come out of a jar. We were hoping the potatoes La Mancha would turn out to be hash-brown potatoes, but the ones we were served were simply diced, cooked and doused with paprika.
On the other hand, the eggs Benedict were correctly poached, the omelets and the sausages nicely cooked and the steak Quixote, beef chunks braised in red wine and seasonings, with a tasty dish. In fact, each dish is fine as long as you do not expect the extraordinary.
Service from the dining room staff was pleasant, and the children were given attention and consideration. The waiters and waitresses seemed to want customers to enjoy themselves, which adds to the festive spirit of this brunch. We were not celebrating anything more than not having to cook at home, and we still came away feeling that this brunch has been a special occasion.
And then there is the price. Since even beverages (with the exception of champagne) are included in the fixed price, it is hard to overspend at La Mancha's brunch. Our bill for four, tax and tip included, was a pleasing $26.10.
Atmosphere: Attractive and comfortable.
Hours: Sunday Brunch: Three seatings at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. Other hours for regular service: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.
Price range: For brunch, $6.25 per adult and $3.25 per child plus an additional $2.25 for all the champagne you can drink. Lunch entrees range from $3.00 to $5.50 with no children's menu. Dinner entrees range from $7.95 to $11.50 with children's portions for $3.50.
Reservations: A good idea for 12:30 p.m. brunch.
Credit cards: Master Card, Visa.
Special facilities: Easy parking in restaurant lot; accessible to wheelchairs; booster seats but no highchairs.