1710 Connecticut Ave. NW 232-2777 Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Prices: Breakfast items 50 cents to $3.89, sandwiches $1.35 to $3.50. Cards: None accepted.

It's an ice cream parlor! It's a hangout! It's Jodo's, a refreshing and amusing alternative to yuppie food and yuppie prices in Dupont Circle.

A basement eatery with a heart of gold, Jodo's looks as if management commissioned a bunch of high school art students to decorate the place.

The windows (level with the sidewalk) are trimmed with twinkling white lights, the walls are splashed with a kaleidoscope of bright paints, and further embellished with such unabashedly promotional slogans as "

is a many splendored thing but a bbq beef is more filling." (I'd agree, but also add that Jodo's barbecue is probably too sweet for most tastes.)

The maze of rooms starts with a small display of baked goods and coffees, and to one side of that, a cheerfully modest dining area, replete with a jukebox, chess set and sundry newspapers.

Big painted footprints on the floor point you in the direction of the sandwich/ice cream counter in the rear of this rambling, charmingly makeshift outpost.

Aside from the ice cream assortment, which is varied enough to give the folks at Baskin-Robbins a run for their money, the menu at Jodo's is brief, mainly a selection of sandwiches and breakfast dishes.

Frankly, after sampling a mediocre veal cutlet and some cloying barbecue, the sandwiches are my least favorite reason for visiting Jodo's.

On the other hand, the hefty hamburger might not be cooked exactly as requested, but it is an attractive sandwich, piled high with fresh greens and tomato, and topped with a toasted poppy seed bun -- a bargain at $2.65. (Order it with a side of Jodo's fresh and chunky coleslaw.)

And the fist-sized "handwiches," which are either ham and cheese or roast beef and onions stuffed in a pocket of fresh-baked bread, are filling and satisfying, even more enjoyable for their price ($3.50, including a salad).

But oh, what a breakfast Jodo's serves!

Its fresh fruit plate, fancier than in many a tablecloth restaurant, is a riot of colors -- melon, peach and apple slices, a piece of pear scooped and filled with raspberries, accompanied by a dollop of sweet vanilla-scented yogurt for dipping.

Flanking the plate are slices of cinnamon toast, dusted liberally with sugar and cinnamon.

The pancakes here are thick, fluffy and sweet, made even sweeter with the addition of a fruit topping and whipped cream (Jodo's calls these "pancrepes").

The more adventurous can get their pancakes finished under the broiler, or wrapped around a three-egg omelet and slathered with cheese sauce.

Best of all is the strapping and comforting "country platter," heaped with eggs, savory nubbins of browned potato, bits of bacon and sausage, and spiked with chunks of onion and green pepper.

As unexpected as the decor are a few of the menu's ethnic inclusions, such as french onion soup and Jodo's rendition of the Korean dish known as bulgogi.

And every visit there seems to be something different -- a meaty beef stew accompanied by thick slices of bread comes to mind -- added to the roster.

The dessert choice is obvious: Stick with anything made with ice cream -- a soda, malt, sundae or banana split, perhaps -- which allows you to explore the extensive toppings bar, a fantasy of candies, fruits, nuts and the like.

For something lighter and more refreshing, a fruit-flavored phosphate or egg cream is a good choice.

I'm less enamored of the bakery case.

Every day there is something new on display, but save for Jodo's homey, nutty brownies, charmingly presented in the pan in which they were baked, I've been disappointed with bread pudding the texture of cardboard, tasteless blueberry cake, and dry, powdery chocolate-nut cookies.

First-timers might find Jodo's a bit confusing.

You order your food in the rear, pay up front, and have it delivered to your table by the same person who does the cooking.

Since it's basically a one-man show in the kitchen, I fear what might happen if the place ever got crowded.

So Jodo's is uneven, and about as smoothly run as a kid's lemonade stand.

But I like what Jodo's is trying to be: an unpretentious and inexpensive neighborhood eatery marching to a different drummer. Tom Sietsema is on the staff of The Washington Post Food section.