Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Breakfast only on Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon.
Atmosphere: Hotel coffee shop.
Price range: Sandwiches from $3 to $5. Nightly dinner specials.
Credit cards: Major.
Special features: Highchairs and booster seats available. Tables are spaced closely but could be rearranged for wheelchairs. Free parking. Early bird dinners.
Sometimes it would be better if restaurants did not consider reincarnation. A move to a new location or a reappearance after a couple of years does not necessarily spell renewed success.
Seymour Rich, who has been in the delicatessen restaurant business in Washington for more than 20 years, first at 19th and E streets NW and then at a number of other locations in the city, has now established two restaurants at the Chevy Chase Holiday Inn.
The family operates both the hotel dining room, Rich's Place, and the coffee shop, the Pickle Barrel. A quick examination of prices and we were off to the Pickle Barrel, the more casual and less expensive alternative.
We have visited the restaurant three times: first, for a dinner that was painful to experience and endure, then a lunch that showed a somewhat different personality, and a final dinner that leaves me with mixed comments. No single explanation suffices for the irregular experience.
Maybe the restaurant's biggest fault is its attempt to do too many things. There are luncheon specials and early dinner menus, but there is a lot of confusion about what is available when.
The singular saving grace at lunch was the matzoh ball soup ($1.75), but even it had a taste of chicken concentrate. The other soup we tried, a chicken gumbo ($1.35), was a starchy bowl of potatoes, rice, noodles, lima beans and corn.
The brisket sandwich ($3.85) was inedible. Even though we make it a practice to send nothing back to the kitchen, we needed to make an exception this evening. Our return visit showed some hope: Brisket was unavailable.
The source of the dinner failures has its roots during lunch time when the restaurant is crowded with business customers. The staff, although no friendlier, is at least larger. Yet they still view their job as one of taking orders, returning with food and disappearing forever.
We concentrated on corned beef and blintzes. The corned beef sandwich ($3.85) was hot, lean and mouth-watering. No complaints.
And there were no complaints about the cheese blintzes ($4.95). The dough is light and the filling is packed into a tight wrapper and quickly fried. They taste good plain or with sour cream, but not with frozen strawberries.
Unfortunately, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous commodity. I figured if the menu bold-faced blintzes, then the meat ones ($5.15) would be perfect for dinner.
What tastes good with farmer's cheese does not necessarily succeed with ground meat. Immediately, when you look at your plate of grease with three meat-filled cylinders swimming around, you know there are problems. Their taste does not transcend their appearance.
That freshly cut luncheon corned beef is a dinnertime failure. When placed into the microwave for warming, it tastes little better than mediocre packaged frozen products. All is lost. Having the corned beef cold, especially at night, helps avoid the dry, overcooked taste on soggy bread.
The corned beef chicken liver combo sandwich ($4.25) showed the restaurant at its best. There were large portions of both meats and they worked well together.
For dessert we have tried twice the chocolate mousse cake ($1.95). Once we loved its light, airy chocolate taste; on another visit the cake had been sliced earlier and was dry.
Bar items are overpriced: bottles of American beer cost $1.95 and Dr. Brown's cream soda costs $1