Atmosphere: Dark but pleasant.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Price range: $4.95 to $13.95 for dinner; $3.25 to $7.95 for lunch.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, Choice and American Express.

Reservations: Available.

Special facilities: Accessible to the physically handicapped; free parking lot; booster seats for very young diners.

Salad bars have long been a family favorite. As parents we like them because our kids fill up on lettuce and three-bean salad rather than bread and butter.

And, with a vegetarian in our family, salad bars mean there's always something for him to eat. Our kids like the make-your-own style, so everyone's happy.

But there are salad bars and salad bars.

Some have bowls of lettuce, two or three side dishes and dressing. Others are veritable salad buffets: long tables filled with several types of lettuce plus toppings that range from raw mushrooms and fresh fruit to carrot-raisin, coleslaw, macaroni and potato salads.

Several restaurants along the Rockville Pike corridor appear to be competing for honors in the latter category. Gus' Place (formerly The New Yorker) seems to be going for the championship.

Although the dim lighting, Tiffany lamps, brick walls and stained glass windows give the restaurant a sophisticated, adult atmosphere, the menu, service and casual openness of the salad bar make families with children in tow perfectly comfortable.

Our children were particularly delighted to find electronic game machines in the lounge. They also were intrigued with the singing going on at the bar. A reunion of some sort must have been taking place. Choruses of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" wafted through to the main dining room, giving a rather festive air to dinner.

The salad bar, easily the restaurant's big attraction, runs the length of the main dining room. A table stacked with ice has three tiers of bowls with salads and salad toppings in them. Among the more pleasant and unusual surprises at the salad bar were sliced red onions, a delightful black-eyed pea salad, a tangy northern bean salad, a creamy celery salad and a large bowl of feta cheese chunks.

We had heard that the salad bar usually featured fresh fruit, but in the dead of winter all we found was applesauce. Diners who make a dinner meal of the salad bar and accompanying breads--rather dull ryes and pumpernickels--pay $4.95. Otherwise, the salad is included in the price of main course entrees.

The menu and cooking is simple. Gus' offers roast beef (the house specialty) in three cuts ($6.95 regular, $8.95 queen, $10.95, king), three types of steak, broiled chicken and a few seafood dishes. There are also daily specials. Of these, our daughter tried the barbecued ribs ($5.95). They came three to the plate, well-spiced and on a bed of rice. The ribs weren't particularly meaty, but combined with the salad bar, there was more than enough for a 15-year-old to eat.

From the regular menu we tried, based on our waiter's recommendation, filet mignon ($8.95). It was a nice, tender piece of meat, broiled to medium rare as ordered and accompanied by oven-brown potatoes that were heavy on the garlic--very heavy on the garlic.

We also ordered the regular cut of roast beef, which, like the steak, was well cooked and on the tender side of lean. Both meats were simply but well prepared. Our son, the vegetarian, had no choice but to go with the salad bar. Even the onion soup, the waiter reported, was made with a beef broth.

For dessert Gus' has ice cream, cheesecake, apple pie, pecan pie and baklava. The baklava ($1.50) was heavier on the nuts than the honey but not bad. The pecan pie ($1.45) was good, if toothachingly sweet. The apple pie ($1.45) took first place as the best dessert of the evening.

The tab for our dinner, which included a carafe of wine and two glasses of milk, came to $38.96 including tax.