Walking into the Golden Bull Restaurant is like stepping back in time, maybe sometime in the early '70s. Located on Adelphi Road, near Riggs Road, the restaurant has a huge bull on the roof--trust me, you won't miss it. And the dining room is hushed, windowless and paneled, just like I remember restaurants from my youth, with a heavy curtain to separate the dining room and bar. And when was the last time you were seated at a table with plush, comfortable, cushioned individual chairs?
To continue our trip back in time, we started with two appetizers--clams casino and barbecue shrimp wrapped in bacon ($5.95 each). The clams were lightly breaded and topped with cheese and bacon. Everyone loved them. The shrimp were huge and cooked perfectly, but the barbecue sauce was a bit overpowering. It might be a good idea to ask for it on the side.
The soup of the day was Maryland crab ($2.25 a cup or $2.75 a bowl). It was a spicy vegetable soup with tender hunks of crab (not a trace of cartilage) and a touch of Old Bay seasoning.
Each entree is served with either a Caesar salad or a tossed salad and a loaf of warm sliced bread. Everyone chose the Caesar salad with, as it turned out, a delicious dressing that was a hit even with the children. (For an entree on my next visit, I'm eager to try the grilled chicken Caesar salad at $9.95 or the grilled steak Caesar salad at $11.95.) Additionally, each entree is served with a choice of baked potato, french fries, applesauce, cole slaw, vegetable of the day or rice pilaf.
The melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon is offered either as a six-ounce ($15.95) or nine-ounce ($19.95) steak. The prime rib comes in three sizes--junior ($13.95), regular cut ($16.95) and extra cut ($19.95) and arrives with classic creamy horseradish. I tried the regular cut medium rare (and it was!), which was delicious, but after the salad and appetizers I managed to eat only half. The leftover portion made a delicious sandwich the next day.
The golden blue crab cake (one fried crab cake for $10.95 or two for $15.95) was sweet and cartilage free. The swordfish ($15.95) was a generous steak, and can be ordered either grilled in lemon butter sauce or served Cajun style. My boyfriend tried it Cajun style and we found it a little dry, in spite of the tasty seasoning.
My daughter chose the jumbo stuffed shrimp ($16.95)--after all that had been my favorite restaurant dish when I was 12. They were exactly as I remembered--three shrimp stuffed with lump crab meat. While we both thought they were good, unfortunately she did find some cartilage in the crab meat.
The menu ranges from pasta dishes, numerous seafood options (such as lobster, fried or broiled combination platters, catch of the day), chicken, veal, prime rib, steak, seafood and steak combinations to a Lite Brite Menu (not low calorie, but smaller portions).
The dessert list is a classic, from sherbet to cheesecake to apple walnut cobbler or bread pudding. There is a children's menu for the under-12 crowd (and while two of the children at our table qualified, they managed to clean their plates of the adult-size portions).
The clientele is a mix of long-time regulars and twentysomethings. I suspect the younger diners have learned what customers at the Golden Bull have known for the last 26 years--the food is reliable, consistent and what you order is exactly what you get.
Golden Bull, 9107 Riggs Rd., Adelphi, Md. 20783; call 301-439-4800. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-10 p.m. Dinner entrees, $10.95-$31.95. Daily lunch and dinner specials are also available.
CAPTION: A trip to the Golden Bull is like a trip back in time--the paneled dining room with its plush seats is hushed.