One night several years ago, my husband and I stopped in at The Golden Arm for a drink on the way home.
We found the Golden Arm, which used to belong to Johnny Unitas, a pleasant place for a night cap and wondered about the food. The dining room, separated only by latticework from the bar, was bustling with people who seemed to be having a good time.
But we never returned -- until a recent Monday when we decided to test our intuition.
It was better than we had hoped for.
From the outside, The Golden Arm on York Road, just above Northern Parkway, looks like most other strip shopping center restaurants: nondescript.
On the inside, however, our impression was entirely different. Not haute cuisine, granted, but food that had little in common with the plain exterior. The atmosphere, too, is attractive -- warm and clubby with a very friendly staff.
In the middle of the restaurant, separating the front (smoking) and back (non-smoking) dining rooms is a large fireplace, open on two sides, that proved the perfect counterpoint to the unseasonably cold weather. Photos and paintings of Johnny Unitas and other Colts from the team's glory days line the walls.
We began our meal with soup -- Crab for me ($2.25 for a cup) andFrench Onion for my husband ($2.95). My soup was more like vegetable soup with a teaspoon of crab flavoring, and a shovel of pepper. Woweeeee! It was good, but would have been better with less fire, and more crab.
The onion soup, heavy on the taste of canned beef broth, was not outstanding, but was well suited to take the chill off this cold night. With an abundance of good cheese and sauteed bread pieces served on the side (meaning they didn't grow soggy from sitting under the cheese in a broiler) the overall effect was warming and tasty.
The salads, which accompanied our entrees, were fresh and colorful. The creamy house ranch dressing was served on the side.
For entrees, I had one Pan-Fried Catfish ($9.95). It can also be had broiled, blackened or Creole-style, but having grown up on the breaded and deep-fried channel cat of the Midwest, I picked pan-fried as the truest method of preparation.
I wasn't disappointed. The almost-sweet catfish flavor was not overpowered by the light breading. This was a good piece of fish, cooked with respect.
My husband ordered the Fresh Calves Liver ($11.50).
''Do you want it broiled?'' she asked, shaking her head from side to side. ''Or sauteed?'' she continued, shaking her head up and down. This woman knew what was good. Little surprise, then, that when she asked if he wanted bacon or fried onions and he said, ''Both,'' she smiled.
The liver, he said was excellent. Cooked medium well, as he had requested, with lots of bacon and onions. And, indeed, he said it did seem unusually fresh; there was nothing tough or old about it.
With our entrees, we had very good, though peppery, Green Beans and Fried Eggplant that was too crunchy on the outside but tender on the inside.
By now, we were on our second small loaf of the house bread. At first, it had seemed nondescript, but turned out to be whole grain bread that seemed to be homemade -- a rarity in most restaurants.
The dessert, too, was unusual. We settled on Bread Pudding ($1.95) with Rum Raisin Sauce (30 cents extra). It was obviously homemade. The bread was tough and spongy but jammed with warm, juicy raisins and swathed in a light, sweet sauce with an aroma of nutmeg and allspice.
Our waitress told us that "Miss Dell" made the bread, the bean dish and, yes, the rum raisin sauce. ''If it's tasty, you can just attribute it to Miss Dell,'' she added.
Because my catfish was a special that night, I got the entree with a salad, two vegetables, dessert and coffee for $9.95. Now, that's a winner.
Our bill, with three cocktails and a glass of wine, was $45.31. Our service was friendly and accommodating and we were glad Miss Dell was in the kitchen.
** 1/2 Golden Arm Restaurant
6354 York Road
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 4-9 p.m.
Reservations: Not usually necessary.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: Separate areas designated