Hours: Wednesday through Friday, dinner served at 8 p.m. with magic show following dinner; Saturday, seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, dinner served at 7 p.m. No shows Monday and Tuesday evenings, though there are occasionally "guest magicians." Children's show the last Saturday of each month, 1 to 3 p.m. (parents not admitted).
Atmosphere: Magicomedy cabaret in a country chalet.
Prices: $18.50 for entrees (price of magic show included); drinks, appetizers and dessert cost extra; 15 percent gratuity added for tables of six or more; kiddie show last Saturday of month, $7.50 (includes all the pizza or spaghetti you can eat, plus unlimited soft drinks).
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard and Visa.
Special facilities: Booster seats; wheelchair access; ample parking. Show not suitable for infants.
Brook Farm Inn of Magic is such a pretty place--a country chalet located in a residential section of Chevy Chase--that we decided to splurge on it for our 10-year-old's birthday. And although dinner shows rarely offer either great food or great theater, we found our Brook Farm evening a complete delight.
Early arrivals are shown into the bar at the back of the building, where drinks are not cheap but the warm-up magic tricks are diverting. Our girls were made to feel welcome at the Pac-Man tables. At 8 p.m. the bartender announced that dinner guests could proceed to the dining room.
Along one wall of the cavernous dining room, the view of green trees through the windows makes you feel as if you are in the country, a feeling reinforced by the country-inn look of the place. Friendly waiters give you a small menu featuring prime ribs, crab imperial, scampi, and a vegetarian dish, and describe the evening specials--in our case, fresh flounder and scallops.
Another time, we might well order prime ribs all around, because the two we got were thick, flavorful, and rare as ordered. Our birthday child was surprisingly content, however, with the plump, rich scallops served with wild rice and broiled tomato.
Entrees were preceded by an interesting salad that got mixed reviews from our crowd: lettuce, shrimp, mandarin oranges, coconut and croutons mixed with a mild chutney dressing. Only curiosity gave us the strength to order the house dessert, an ice cream-filled cream puff topped with hot fudge sauce ($2), and rich enough that the four of us had trouble finishing one order.
Service was pleasant and courteous, almost part of the prevailing sense of effortless magic. (Magicians wander from table to table, performing card tricks and putting the audience in a good humor.)
The salad, mixed at the table with panache, was part appetizer, part event. When we ordered coffee at the end of the meal, our waiter balanced the cup on his shoe and poured a stream of coffee into it from a pot held at shoulder level, then lifted his foot to hand, or should I say, foot us the beverage.
Although they surely got the food to us quickly, the waiters didn't seem to be straining to do so. The girls were amazed when the busboy quietly slipped a new basket of bread on the table only seconds after they had finished their second loaf.
Of course the magic show itself, which began at about 9:30, was the high point of the evening: a light-hearted, fast-fingered, silver-tongued 90-minute production featuring magicians Bob Sheets (who did one trick that seemed well-nigh impossible) and Eddie Goldstein, two clownish magicians whose mild salaciousness went over the heads of our 10-year-olds, although they nevertheless followed every word and movement.
Teasing members of the audience who were invited onstage as assistants (our girls got their moment in the spotlight), Sheets and Goldstein mixed comedy with a fairly gee-whiz level of prestidigitation, enhanced by effective staging.
Although we didn't see the Saturday kids-only magic show, we were told that it is geared more to kids, and somewhat less sophisticated than the evening show, without the levitation and Houdini escape routines. It is also considerably cheaper, however, and the same two magicians, or Steve Spills, another senior magician, do that show too.
If at dinner you stick with the entrees, which are $18.50 each (magic show included), and do not order wine, appetizers or desserts you can keep your bill down.
We asked our guest of honor if it was worth it. She said that although the food was not the greatest, the magic show was really good. "I couldn't figure out a thing. It was better than a birthday party," she said.
And we didn't have to clean up afterward.