Atmosphere: Comfortable and friendly.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday.
Price range: $2.50 to $5.25 for salads, sandwiches, quiches and casseroles; $6.95 to $10.95 for entrees; $6.95 for Sunday brunch.
Credit cards: Mastercard and Visa.
Reservations: Not necessary, but taken for large parties.
Special facilities: Not easily accessible to the handicapped; no booster seats or highchairs. On-street parking. Electronic games, backgammon tables, game tournaments, wine tastings and movie nights.
What made our visit to Park Place such a pleasant diversion was that we each could go our own way. After we ordered our food from a light supper menu of sandwiches, salads, quiches and casseroles, my husband and I sat down at the wine bar, were offered tastes of several wines, and eventually each ordered a glass of wine to have with dinner.
Our children, $2 worth of quarters in their hot little fists, settled down at the electronic games and backgammon tables. These games, unlike those at electronic games stores, aren't free-standing. Rather, Pac-Man, Scramble, Crazy Climber and Asteroids are set into the tops of tables for two. The backgammon tables work the same way.
The game tables are upstairs in three cozy, comfortable rooms. The two front rooms have Breuer-style cane chairs around wooden cafe tables and the game tables, with brightly colored modern graphics on the walls and bright lighting. The back room is darker with a bar and several cocktail tables. Sandwiches and drinks are served upstairs.
Downstairs, the ambience isn't quite as lively and attractive, but the wine bar is located here along with the complete supper menu. While our children played games upstairs, my husband and I sipped our wines at our downstairs table and marveled at how civilized Park Place was for a family night out.
The food, a light supper rather than a complete dinner, did nothing to dispel our feeling of comfort. Our friendly and informative waitress gave us some ordering advice right at the start.
The casseroles, she told us, came out of microwave ovens and were not the best examples of what the kitchen could do. Although we were tempted by some of the casserole selections, especially the "pizza in a dish" ($3.95 for a melange of Italian sausage, cheeses and fresh vegetables), we decided to heed her advice.
She recommended a sandwich that wasn't yet on the menu: turkey on French bread with mustard and Brie ($4.25). It was a superb choice: tender, juicy turkey, a good brown mustard, fresh French bread and creamy melted Brie.
We also tried a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich ($4.25), a melted Swiss cheese sandwich ($2.75), and a chicken salad platter ($3.95), which featured a scoop of chicken salad surrounded by avocado and orange slices. There was nothing extraordinary about these offerings, but they were made carefully with fresh ingredients.
More exceptional were the small green salads (95 cents). Crisp pieces of romaine lettuce were served with an excellent house dressing. Also outstanding was the cole slaw that accompanied the sandwiches. This was not the usual cabbage softened beyond recognition by too much vinegar and mayonnaise. The cole slaw had plenty of crunch and bite and didn't leave our plates swimming in dressing.
When we asked our waitress about desserts, she told us they weren't made in Park Place's kitchen but were homemade by a woman in Occoquan, Va. After trying her carrot cake ($1.95), mocha pie ($2.25), chocolate chip pie ($2.25) and peanut/butterscotch chip pie ($2.25), we have some advice for Park Place: Hold on to the lady from Occoquan. The desserts were superb and worth the hassle of finding a parking place on Connecticut Avenue.
Our check for dinner, which included the wine tasting and rather expensive glasses of wine ($3.50 and $2.50 apiece), one soda (75 cents) and tax, came to $32.78. When we added the $2 for the games, we came away with a relatively expensive family night out, but one that was relaxing and provided more entertainment than most.