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Nov 25, 2007 06:56 PM

The Ground Round - I want to like them, should I?

I thought I slipped into a Journeyman moment (time traveler tv show) when I saw a Ground Round near me ... had I traveled back to Cambridge in the 1970's?

Anyway, I'm considering their happy hour for nostolgia's sake, so I Googled to see what was up with GR. Gee,kind of dramatic story of the bankruptcy and struggle of the franchise owners to take over the place ...which they eventually did in 2005.

The 2004 bankruptcy "quickly turned ugly. The announcement came right before the dinner rush on a Friday, when store managers were ordered to tell diners to finish eating and pay their tabs. (Some were sent home with half-eaten meals in takeout containers.) More than 3,000 employees—some of whom had been with the restaurants for over a decade—were let go without severance, and their final paychecks bounced. A few angry workers broke plates and windows and stole steaks and liquor"

So, given that the franchise owners staged a mighty fight to keep the restaurants open after all that ... well I want to like them and hoping there's something good there ... but ... I looked at the online menu ... it's in it's own little time-warp stuck in the cajun - blackened era.

Going with basics ....

Hows the burger? I mean with the name "Ground Round" that has to be a safe bet, no?

I'm also considering the brownie sundae because I haven't had a brownie sundae since about the time GR started ... used to love brownie sundaes.

Unless someone says otherwise I'll probably pass on the
- Blackened Chicken Penne Florentine - Penne pasta tossed with spinach, tomatoes and Alfredo sauce.
- Cajun grilled salmon basted in an orange marinade
- Cajun shrimp fajitas
- Whiskey Peppercorn Burger on ciabatta bread.
- Gouda Roast Beef Wrap - Freshly shaved roast beef, Gouda cheese, horseradish mayonnaise with tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

However, given the time frame of the joint, I wonder if the French dip is any good? Burger or French dip ... or neither?

Actually, dessert-wise the cinnamon dippers look kind of good ... like fried-to-order donuts. I'm contemplating the fried cheesecake. Ground Round at one time sold 10 cent Buffalo wings which required the restaurants to buy bigger deep fryers ... so they might do a good job with deep-fried things Anyone tried the dippers or cheesecake?

I'm also interested to hear reports from different locations. Since there is no real central management I wonder how similar these places are. Some have their own websites. Someone is actually opening a new GR in Winona in March 2008 ...

So ... what's the word on Ground Round?

The Ground Round

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  1. Fascinating...I had no idea they still existed somewhere. I'd heard about the bankruptcy but not the ugliness of it all. The few locations in my area are now either some other restaurant or boarded up/empty.

    Since you don't really know what they're like these days, I say a burger is usually a safe bet. The burger choices certainly sound tasty. Nothing on the menu about how they cook the meat, so I hope that means they'd do medium-rare.

    My question is, do they still serve popcorn when you sit down? That was my favorite part of the Ground Round experience. That and the huge TV. 17 years ago it was a fun place to have dinner. I miss the one I had my birthday party at one year.

    1 Reply
    1. re: SarahEats

      It must have been uglier in some places than in others - an acquaintenance of mine was a regular at a nearby GR and happened to be there when they were ordered to close up shop - they at least comped the diners before throwing them out with unfinished meals :-)

      I always liked it compared to TGIF/Applebee's and other chotchski-type places but who knows what it's like now.

      Only one way to find out :-)

    2. How weird!

      Just 2 nights ago we were explaining the Ground Round to our 19 year old son as he observed the "conservative-ness" of the Chop House in which we were dining.

      We told him that a hearty steak wasn't always a "high brow affair." Way before the popcorn (and now that I think of it, smack dab during the Carter administration), you were served a bowl of peanuts and encouraged to throw the shells on the floor. It seemed like s few days' accumulation would make the stuff seem like sawdust. When peanuts got too pricey, they substituted the nuts with popcorn and just spread real sawdust everywhere. At least that's the way it was in Brookline, MA.

      I wonder if that would pass the current health code regulations.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MSK

        Texas Roadhouse gives you peanuts and lets you throw the shells on the ground. I think that's nasty.

      2. Haven't been to one since pre-bankruptcy but I remember the food being pretty unspectacular. Do they still have long island night with the menu of at least a dozen teas for a couple of bucks? I remember the fake liquor mix they put in those things--no wonder they were so cheap.

        1. What a blast from the past. It was my friends and my favorite place to hang out when we were in hs with the popcorn and brownie sundaes. I think what brought us back were the potato skins with sour cream, cheese, bacon, chives. This was in R.I. in the 80's. I thought the food was good back then but that was also back when I thought Baskin Robbins had the best ice cream and Dominoes had the best pizza.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            chowser: Are you a (an?) RI native? We used to frequent the GR on North Main St in Providence. The skins rocked but let us not forget the cold, cold beer. 8>D

            Ditto on B-R ice cream too. When they opened their first RI store in 1976 on Thayer St in Providence (number 1,776 in the chain; that's not something you forget), it was the top-grossing B-R location in the whole country for a while.

            1. re: Bob W

              I lived in southern R.I. (if there is such a thing is such a small state) in my younger days but not a native. The one we went to was in N. Kingstown. I didn't get the beer then

              I still remember Del's lemonade, NY system hotdogs (there was a great place on, or near?, Thayer Street) and D'Angelo's #9 subs fondly. Aunt Carrie's deep fried food, Custy's all you can eat buffet, Brick Alley Pub in Newport, Allie's donuts. My fear is that I'll take a trip back and find out that all the food I loved in hs are just really bad food that high schoolers like.

              1. re: chowser

                chowser: do a search on the New England board. You'll find that RI delicacies are treasured by chowhounds of all ages.

                For example, I rediscovered D'Angelo's #9 pokket a couple of years ago on one of my infrequent visits to RI and enjoyed it as much as I ever did. And NY System weiners never get old!

                1. re: Bob W

                  I've lurked there on occasion but haven't caught mention of my old favorites. I am always surprised at the diversity of cuisine there these days. I find myself asking, "Hey, you can get xxxx in R.I.?" I remember when the best/only Mexican food was Casa Lupita in Warwick! I need to make a chowhound trip up that way.

          2. Is the location that you mention in the Bay Area? If it is, I might try it myself for old times sake. I used to love that place when I was in college on the east coast.It was especially great since I had very few pennies to rub together and you can get surprisingly full on peanuts, popcorn and beer! Didn't realize they even still existed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: baseballfan

              Here's the link to the Richmond location (off I-80 across the highway from the Appian Way mall on the Wal Mart side near the theatres). I went there for happy hour this week (hours on Place record)

              What a real snapshot of the late 70's / early 80's and not entirely in a bad way. All that was missing was spider ferns. Serously if the tv series Journeyman needs a location to shoot in that period, this is the place.

              Will write about it when I get a chance. All the local happy hour offers is all appetizers 1/2 off and $3 tequila shots. No other drink discounts ... but they are pretty inexpensive to begin with.

              A quick tip ... skip the margarita and go for the huge mugs of draft beer ($3.75 - $5, I think).

              No peanuts or popcorn anymore.

              The Ground Round
              3190 Klose Way, San Pablo, CA 94806