Arbuckles

1101 Sophia St., Fredericksburg. (703) 361-0775.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday.

Atmosphere: Casual eclectic.

Reservations: Not necessary except for large parties.

Credit cards: Visa and MasterCard.

Special facilities: Booster seats; wheelchair accessible.

Historic Fredericksburg, only 50 minutes south of Washington on Interstate 95 or Rte. 1, has a lot to offer a family of sightseers: Civil War battlefields, George Washington's mother's house, and Arbuckles family restaurant.

Arbuckles, in the oldest part of Fredericksburg, overlooks the Rappahannock River in downtown Fredericksburg. One side of the building is glass, through which, from two levels, diners and bar patrons enjoy an unobstructed view of the peaceful riverscape below.

Less than a year old, Arbuckles is owned and operated by four local residents, who took what used to be an old and ignored building, rebuilt it, decorated it and turned it into a popular eatery.

After a long day of sightseeing recently, I took a friend and her three children to Arbuckles for dinner. We ate in the dining room, after the kids had explored the lounge area and its electronic games.

The two-page menu offers a variety of sandwiches, appetizers, pizzas, burgers, salads, cold plates, and side orders such as onion rings, broiled mushrooms or deep-fried zucchini.

The two youngest children, ages 6 and 7, decided to split a club sandwich ($2.95). It arrived stacked with ham, bacon, roast beef, lettuce and tomato, accompanied by potato chips and pickle.

The 12-year-old chose a 4-ounce burger ($1.75 plus 25 cents for each topping). The toppings include sauteed mushrooms, tomato sauce, sour cream and fresh spinach -- a total of 14 in all. The burger arrived hot and juicy, right off the grill.

My friend ordered the Arbuckle Round, a half-pound of ground sirloin smothered in sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheese. As with all the entrees, a salad or coleslaw and french fries were included. The only unsatisfactory part of the whole meal was my friend's salad, which was a bit skimpy although topped with mushrooms, peppers, onions and tomatoes. But the meal was still a bargain at $4.95.

After much deliberation, I ordered the crab puffs ($4.50), big puffs of crab meat coated with a light and slightly spicy batter, and coleslaw.

The owners of Arbuckles are obviously concerned with maintaining the quality and quantity of their food in a comfortable atmosphere. The portions are generous and the waitresses friendly and efficient.

Our total bill came to $22, not including tip. It was a perfect ending for a long day exploring Fredericksburg.