Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 24 hours Friday and Saturday.

Atmosphere: You provide.

Price range: Sandwiches from $2.95. Dinners from $5.25 to $10.95.

Credit cards: Major.

Reservations: Accepted on weekends.

Special features: Sidewalk dining available; entertainment; booster seats.

Maybe restaurant owners are just a lot smarter than customers. Many proprietors seem to operate on the principle that all they have to do is put out some tables and offer food, and the flocks will come. Add the informality of sidewalk dining, and they guarantee themselves waiting hordes.

Mr. Henry's Connecticut Avenue seems to have been conceived on the idea of divine neglect. This local enterprise, with branches throughout the city, offers chaos and confusion.

When we were unable to find a clean table outside and the staff argued about who should clean up, we moved inside. What a contrast. As bright and fumy as sidewalk dining is, we were unprepared for the dark, dreary interior. We were shuffled to a corner and given a few menus and a waiter who had difficulty communicating.

He knew nothing about the day's specials and had us bounding back outside to read the bulletin board and commit the items and prices to memory.

Maybe because we seemed hungry or because we were with two children, we were made to suffer. We received paper napkins, while other tables were set with cloth.

We were afraid to order any of the complicated entrees and decided to stay with the simple. We had eaten at other Mr. Henry's and assured the children that soups, burgers and corned beef sandwiches were always first-rate. We were wrong.

The children took our advice and each ordered the onion soup ($2.25). It arrived cold. A piece of semimelted cheese sat atop some onions and a slice of white bread. The bowls of fatty, brothy onions had no taste.

Dinner arrived in haphazard fashion. First the burger ($2.95), then the other items arrived in slow succession. The undersized, lukewarm overcooked patty was soon cold. It seemed to shrink as it sat forlornly inside an oversized stale bun in the middle of an otherwise empty plate. No chips, no pickle -- just a plate.

The hot corned beef ($3.95) was dry, overcooked, stringy, fatty and of meager size to boot.

The side order of skin fries (75 cents) sounded and looked good but proved cold.

Yet there was a bright ray among the otherwise dark choices in this dreary setting. The crabcake sandwich ($3.95) was lightly breaded and quickly fried. Bites for everyone supplied a minuscule dinner for four.

We knew better than to continue this experience. No desserts are made on the premises, and we figured it would be easier to leave at that point with a taste of the one successful item still in our mouths.

The crowds still will line up outside Mr. Henry's, as Washington has a fascination with sidewalk eateries. Inside they'll gather for the evening entertainment and sit and sip rather than sup. Mr. Henry's may be perfect for sitting, watching and clapping. It just does not seem to work for eating.

Even our small meal, with tax and tip, totaled $22.46. Our real satisfaction came later when we traveled to a favorite ice cream haunt for complete-meal sundaes.