Sir John Suckling

The waitress was flustered. She'd delivered a dozen oysters and a bowl of soup and the customer happily slurped them down. Now, she was presenting the entree, but he was happy no more.

The two steaks hit the counter with a clatter, gleaming and overhanging the edges of their plates.

"I ordered two steak dinners," grumbled the customer, who wore camouflage from head to foot after clumping around the cold marshes of the lower Eastern Shore in pursuit of geese all day. "You brought me a steak dinner with two steaks."

He cast a disappointed glance at the side orders of macaroni and cheese and creamed spinach. "I wanted two vegetables with each steak."

This all happened at the H&G Restaurant in Easton, Md., and the waitress actually hurried back into the kitchen and got two more vegetables, and the customer ate the whole thing, all six plates worth, and no one seemed surprised when he ordered apple pie for dessert.

It's that time of year when people go fishing, hiking, hunting, boating or just for drives in the country, enjoying the last civil weather before hard winter, and when they go they must eat, and probably a lot since they're fattening up for the freeze. But where?

Jack Lorenz, executive director of the Izaak Walton League and a great trencherman, suggested recently that a service sorely needed was a guide to good cheap eats in the countryside around Washington.

Lorenz said when he was growing up, he and an uncle used to build fishing trips of a week or more around the chance to try inexpensive but respectable eateries along the way.

Lorenz still fondly remembers those trips, and subjects his wife to efforts to relive them, dragging her to places with names such as the Coral Gardens Inn for meals, including Thanksgiving dinner.

Why, with a Washington expense account, does a fellow look for places to eat where the entree is under $5? "It's the ambience," Lorenz said. "It's the people. It's like an extension of deer camp. In fact, sometimes it's just like deer camp. You get to use the same language. It feels like home, only better. You don't have to argue with your relatives."

In honor of Lorenz and people like him who love to go to the country but might not know where to stuff themselves, herewith the unabridged, anauthorized and generally unreliable Washington Post Outdoors Trencherman's Guide to Just Good Eats. WEST

While on the way to or from the mountains, where you might be hiking, rock climbing, doing a little late canoeing or just foliage watching, there are a number of places to stop.

Town 'n' Country, five miles east of Warrenton, Va., on Rte. 29-211, under the "Just Good Food" sign. Home-made sausage and real country ham. Great for breakfast.

Werner's German Restaurant, Cresaptown, Md., Rt. 220 south of Cumberland. Beer steins and suits of armor on the wall, giant sandwiches, low prices. Recommended by Mac Thornton, the Canoe Cruiser's Association's "paddling gourmet."

George's, on Rte. 7, Purcellville, Va. Good fish, of all things, in this successor to the famed White Palace.

Brookside, just west of Luray, Va., on 211 on the way to Skyline Drive. Shredded barbecue sandwiches and fruit cobblers.

Warm Springs Inn, Warm Springs, Va., near Lake Moomaw in Bath County. This is a combination motel-restaurant with the baths across the street and great meals for under $10.

Coach Stop, Middleburg, Va., good breakfasts.

DiFrancesco's, Frederick, Md., on North Market Street, the main drag. Half portions of pasta and a side salad make a meal.

La Paz, also downtown Frederick, where quesadilla, taco salad and margaritas are highly recommended. Very cheap.

Graves Mountain Lodge, Syria, Va., in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, where giant family-style traditional meals are served through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when the place closes for the winter. Lunch is $5.75, dinners run from $8.25 to $16.

La Canasta in Strasburg, Va.; genuine down-home Mexican cooking near the intersection of Rtes. I-66 and I-81.

The Smorgasbord, La Vale, Md., five miles west of Cumberland. All you can eat for $5.29 includes variety of meats, chicken and fish, 11 vegetables, two soups.

Castleman Inn, Grantsville, Md., way out west. Mennonites prepare fresh breads and pies daily and serve up big meals for hungry folks. It is not open on Sundays.EAST

Goose and duck hunters are good sources of information, since they are always cold and hungry and often out of money. East of Washington is seafood and chicken country, and he who orders beef and pork does so at his peril.

Dayton's at The Point, on Rte. 50 at the eastern end of the Choptank River Bridge; excellent flounder and otherwise good, inexpensive meals.

Bridge Restaurant at Tilghman Island; all the oysters on the half shell you can eat for $1.95 when you order an entree ($5 to $7 lunch, $7 to $16 dinner).

Chesapeake House in Tilghman, standard seafood fare plus oyster buffet for $12.95 Fridays (oysters eight ways) and a great view of the Choptank River.

H&G, Rte. 50 in Easton, scene of the two-steak dinner and a place that's been around 40 years where you can still have your pick of full dinners for under $6.

Frying Pan Restaurant on Rte. 2, five miles north of Solomon's Island on the Patuxent River. Good fish, inexpensive.

Evans Restaurant, St. George's Island near Piney Point on the Potomac River. Big crowds for excellent seafood.

Cantler's Riverside Inn, Mill Creek outside Annapolis. Unbelievable bargains midweek. Last week, steamed female crabs were $2.50 a dozen.

McGarvey's Saloon, City Dock, Annapolis, starts $2.25-a-dozen Chincoteague oyster special Nov. 5. This is a happy-hour deal, 4-7 p.m. weekdays.

Angler's Marina Restaurant at the eastern end of the Kent Narrows Bridge, Grasonville. Good place for early morning beer, steamed clams, crabcakes, etc. A real waterman's hangout.

Don's Restaurant, Chincoteague, for broiled flounder, oysters and crabs.

Nanticoke Inn, Vienna, Md., at the west end of the Rte. 50 Nanticoke River Bridge. Cheap draft beer, 1950s ambience and a $2 soft crab sandwich that includes two soft crabs.

This guide in no way purports to be complete. It barely purports to be a guide. Incidentally, for those who do not wish to travel great distances to visit a down-home country bar and grill there is always Trav's, on MacArthur Boulevard in Cabin John, where the chili is hot, the beer flows freely and where hikers from Billy Goat Trail, rock climbers from Carderock and motorcyclists from Cabin John Gardens coexist, apparently happily.

"A little piece of West Virginia plunked down in Montgomery County," is how one admirer described Trav's.