Atmosphere: Cheerful, pleasant, informal.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Price range: $10 (crab cake platters, baked shrimp, fried dishes) to $15 and $17 (seafood combinations platters, lobster).

Reservations: Not taken.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Diner's Club.

Special facilities: Plenty of parking out front. Accessible to handicapped.

Jerry keeps an eagle eye on his restaurant. He's there day and night, spiffy white apron wrapped around his waist, watching everything and everyone. And it shows. Jerry's Seafood is neat, clean and cheerful.

The restaurant has been refurbished recently in a slightly incongruous mix of English alehouse and American nautical. The centerpiece is a long black dinghy smack in the middle of the room holding an icy display of oysters, clams and wriggling lobsters, which appear to look at you as you pass by.

Our waitress chose the lobster I ordered from that boat display. It was replaced immediately by another imminent victim, clawing into the air.

In a bit of a virtuoso performance, Jerry himself often opens clams and oysters for customers' orders. Eager busboys clamber to clean up the debris after the master has completed his art.

Such little dramas are part of the fun of Jerry's. You get the feeling that the restaurant hasn't succumbed yet to formula food, decor or service. Someone is still thinking, cooking and looking.

If you stick to basics, you'll be happy with your food. It's when Jerry's veers away from basics that the food runs into difficulty. Spiced shrimp ($4.95 for half a pound) is a specialty and it is superb. The shrimp are large, fresh and very peppery. Another specialty is oysters Chesapeake ($3.50). The deep-fried mollusks with cheese and bacon are tasty.

Soups vary. On a recent visit, cream of crab ($1.50) was overly thick and pasty: too much flour, little or no cream. Maryland crab ($1.50) was mostly tomato sauce and succotash.

But back to basics. I had a marvelous steamed lobster (price varies), served only with real butter, lemon and a nutcracker. Fried fish ($9.95) and shrimp ($10.95) are fine, crunchy and fresh.

But let Jerry's get fancy or exotic, and there's trouble. Sweet-and-sour shrimp, a featured special, sounded like a good idea. Though the shrimp were large, tender and fresh-tasting, the sauce was gooey-sweet and unpleasant.

Another mistake showed up in the salmon that evening. The fish itself was excellent: delicately sweet, beautifully pink. But it was covered with an odd and unnecessary mixture of chopped raw onion and capers.

Side dishes show a similar pattern. Fresh string beans would have been terrific had they not been mixed with soggy bacon slices. Coleslaw was good: crunchy and not too sweet. French fries are hand-cut and good, though not crisp.

Jerry's no longer makes onion rings, but uses frozen ones. A waitress told us that "the customers like them as much this way as when we made our own." I don't agree.

Desserts disappoint. Chocolate cake tastes like a doctored mix. Strawberry pie might have been fine without the thick scarlet glop on top, covering lovely large fresh strawberries.

Service is efficient. There is no children's menu, but splitting one order for two kids is perfectly acceptable.