Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday at Gaithersburg site; noon to 1 a.m. Sunday at Columbia location.

Atmosphere: Cute old-timey sandwich tavern.

Sandwich prices: $1.70 to $9.45 (for lobster).

Reservations: Not accepted at Gaithersburg after 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. (The Columbia branch is twice as big.)

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

Special facilities: Ample parking, booster seats and highchairs; easy wheelchair access at Columbia branch only; carryout party platters available, including 7-foot sandwich, $86 plus tax.

"If you'll stop stealing our menus, we'll stop slashing your tires," it says on page 1 of the 17-page menu that slows down decision-making at Roy's Place. The unashamedly cornball sandwich emporium has been around in one incarnation or another since 1955 and now makes its home in both Gaithersburg and Columbia.

A family of sandwich lovers, we couldn't resist visiting a place that had been described in a local guidebook as serving "a thousand sandwiches, incredible combinations." We were only somewhat dismayed as we pulled into Roy's gigantic parking lot to hear a 10-year-old announce from the back seat, "I'm going to get a BLT."

From the outside, the Gaithersburg Roy's is tastefully old-timey, a charming Victorian-style building in Civil War red brick, newly constructed but convincing enough that some customers are certain they remember it being an old railroad station.

Inside, Roy's goes cute--so cute it may make your teeth ache--but it's precisely the kind of place Aunt Eva and cousin Rowena will find "cuter than a bug's ear."

More to the point, it's a good-natured tavern with a PG rating--unless you are offended by a vaguely suggestive menu writer who warns coyly that "one of our sandwiches is a sexual depressant" and calls chicken breasts chicken bosoms.

As for the sandwiches themselves (the menu lists between 150 and 200), Roy may carry adventurousness to a fault, and it pays to order conservatively.

Generally I assume that even if something is so different I would never have made it myself, it must be good if they are serving it. This is not necessarily so, judging from the "Forever Ambler, or the Importance of Being Ernest," a $6.20 sandwich that consists of a quarter-pound of sirloin (sandwich grade), served with three fried oysters and broiled blue-cheese dressing on the bread of your choice.

I had to agree with what my 10-year-old said of her sandwich: "Each of the individual ingredients tastes okay, they just don't taste good together."

She dissected her Linda Liebfrau ($6.75)--crab salad, ham, avocado, lettuce, tomato, bacon and tarragon mayonnaise--and picked at the ingredients (the crab salad was tasty, the avocado perfectly ripe).

Her friend, who had come craving a BLT, settled for Welsh and Tennery (melted sharp cheese, thick-sliced bacon and broiled tomato on pumpernickel, $3.15), nibbled quietly at it with a distinctly crestfallen manner, and didn't recover her spirits until we asked her what she wanted for dessert. "I like sharp cheese," she explained, "just not melted."

Only the golden sauce got scraped off the Eddy Burger ($3.35) ordered by our other 10-year-old, who devoured with enthusiasm a quarter pound of hamburger and melted Swiss cheese on a hard roll.

Father, who ordered Father's Defeat, got a beautiful, perfectly delicious sandwich: three hot Italian pork sausages, melted provolone cheese with fried onions and green peppers on French bread ($5.90). Only later did we learn that Roy's strength lies in splendid variations on the sausage sandwich.

Side orders, which run about $1, were standard fare. The cole slaw was crisp, freshly made and good, though sweet; fried zucchini was a friendly appetizer; onion rings were so-so; french fries were fat and filling.

Two scoops of chocolate ice cream ($1.30) made up somewhat for the girls' sandwich disappointments, but Amaretto cheesecake ($1.60) was like solid Amaretto, something I can live without.

Our bill for five people, with drinks and many side dishes, was $51.71, tax and tip included.