Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday.
Atmosphere: Country French, suburban-style.
Price range: Entrees from $7.95 for coq au vin to $16 for scampi; children's dinner portions half price.
Credit cards: All major.
Special facilities: Booster seats and highchairs; parking lot; accessible to the handicapped although the double entrance doors could be a problem.
The Iron Skillet doesn't sound like a French restaurant, but it is. Well, maybe not downtown Washington-style French, but rather a suburban variety. Grillwork decorating the outside gives it a vaguely New Orleans flavor. Inside there are antiques, oil paintings in gold frames and chandeliers dripping with little black skillets.
It's a good choice for a family splurge--either a special celebration or simply an effort to show the kids what lies beyond the hamburger, pizza and fried chicken circuit.
At The Iron Skillet, children are made to feel especially welcome. And let's face it, there is something about fresh flowers, linen tablecloths, and candlelight that brings out the good manners you've tried so hard to instill. It's not a bad way for Mom and Dad to spend an evening either.
The menu offers a fairly wide selection of appetizers and a couple of salads, but concentrates on the entrees. With an eye on the budget, our family passed up venison ($14.95) and filet mignon ($14.50) and stayed with less expensive selections: veal ($11.95), chicken in wine ($7.95), stuffed flounder ($10.50) and a half portion of beef brochette (about $4.50--half of $8.95).
To start with, we were brought a basket of toast and a tub of tasty blue cheese while we looked over the menu. Then came delightfully fresh rolls. The salads, served in large pewter bowls, contained several kinds of lettuce and a variety of crisp vegetables, including thinly sliced mushrooms--all tossed in a light, creamy dressing.
The entrees generally lived up to the high quality of all that had come before. Best was veal piccata, in a sauce that blended butter, lemon and wine. It was served on a bed of green noodles, cooked al dente.
Just as well prepared was coq au vin. This beautifully seasoned and sauced chicken was accompanied by potatoes and tiny pearl onions and was as nice to look at as it was to devour.
Our 8-year-old ordered a half portion of beef brochette a' l'oriental. The amount was just right for her and so was the dish. The cubes of meltingly tender beef were crusty outside and pink inside, the way she likes, and were served with rice.
The one disappointment of the evening was flounder stuffed with crabmeat, one of several dishes served in a skillet. Unfortunately, both the fish and its cream sauce were bland, and the crab filling was rather mushy.
Dessert selections included a tempting array of goodies, such as chocolate mousse, French pastries and baklava ($1.95 each). To our surprise and delight, however, when my husband and I ordered coffee, the waiter brought our daughters each a peach melba, on the house. These gorgeous concoctions combined peaches, fruit sauce and whipped cream, topped with meringues shaped like swans.
The bill for the four of us came to $50.75, including wine and soft drinks. We also left a generous tip for just about the best service we've encountered.