Hours: Weekdays, ll:30 a.m. to l0 p.m.; Saturdays, noon to ll p.m.; Sundays, 3 to l0 p.m.

Atmosphere: Mexican.

Price range: $3.25 to $9.95 for dinners.

Reservations: Taken on a limited basis, but not always necessary.

Credit cards: American Express, Visa, Mastercard.

Special features: Several steps, but wheelchair dining is possible. Highchair and booster seats available. Children's menu.

The merry sound of Mexican music filled the parking lot opposite Tyson's Corner Shopping Center as we entered the Casa Maria restaurant. A sign in the small lobby says, "Watch out for bulls and unicycles -- you are leaving Tyson's and entering Mexico." Gaily decorated with red-and-green ponchos draped from the ceiling and other trappings of Mexico, Casa Maria clearly offers a good time for all.

Unlike many of the small Mexican fast-food restaurants that feature a multitude of tacos and little else, Casa Maria offers an extensive menu. The portions are generous, tasty and hot.

But some like it hotter still, and for those who do, Casa Maria has a hot sauce. Carefully watching as I loaded the sauce onto a tortilla chip from the complimentary basketful provided, my older son warned, "Oh, you're going to suffer."

What does a child know of such matters? It was pure, burning ecstasy.

As an appetizer, the four of us split a huge portion of nachos ($3.50). They were a fiery delight: corn chips covered with beans, melted cheese, Jalapeno peppers, guacamole and sour cream.

Other appetizers ranged in price from $2.25 to $4.75 and included temptations like guacamole (avacados, tomatoes, onions, peppers, assorted spices and tortilla chips for $3.25), Mexican pizza (a tortilla covered with beans, beef, a special sauce, mushrooms, cheese, sour cream and guacamole for $3.25) and quesadilla (a tortilla filled with cheese, onions and peppers for $2.25).

We looked through an extensive menu of three soups ($1.25 to $1.95), four salads (

.50 to $5.25) and entrees which included six types of tostadas ($4.50 to $5.95), and assorted combinations of platters, omelettes, sandwiches and burgers. Nothing exceeded $9.95.

My sons were happy that the waitress provided a children's menu, where they found what they were looking for -- "just a regular taco" -- for

.75. (The regular menu had two for $3.95.) The children's menu also included hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

My wife had flautas: two large taco shells filled with ground beef, topped with guacamole, sour cream, cheese and tomato sauce for $5.25. With a side order of rice and beans topped with melted cheese, it was more than a generous serving.

I had enchiladas rancheras for $4.75. This dish consisted of two rolled tortillas stuffed with beef and topped with sauce, cheese and sour cream. It also came with a side order of rice and beans. The enchiladas were surprisingly light and the cheese and meat filling blended tastefully.

One of the nice things about such an assortment of dishes is the children can experiment by nibbling at their parents' servings. Our children did, and they both enjoyed their experiments. Maybe next time they'll even venture out of the "regular taco" rut.

For dessert we split some flan (a caramel pudding baked in Kahlua) and a Kahlua mousse, each

.25. They provided a cool end to a fine meal of hot foods.

The bill for four, including tax and tip, was $33.