The Ground Round touts itself as a place "where kids can relax . . . and grown-ups can have fun." Few would quarrel with this description. The Ground Round on Waltham Woods Road in Carney is an easy-going kind of place, the sort of restaurant where grown-ups might even relax while their kids have fun.
The decor is minimalist, the menu varied, the prices are reasonable and the service is friendly, if a bit erratic.
Children are definitely welcome here. The youngsters' menu offers eight typical kid dishes -- only the fried clams were a bit unusual -- and there's complimentary popcorn on each table for those who can't wait another minute.
On a recent weeknight, my two daughters and I sat in a small dining room adjacent to the spacious bar, which also had tables and booths. We had a nice view of the sunny evening outside and also of the golf tournament that seemed to be televised everywhere in the two rooms.
Other than the floor-to-ceiling windows, there is little to say about this area's decor. The color scheme is monochromatic with blond furniture, brown-and-white table clothes and brown or beige floors. Only the green "pool table" lamps, hung high over the tables, disturbed the tan-ness. The other dining room did seem to have more of a country decor, and more color.
But, no matter, we were hungry -- and cold, the air conditioning was really working. We started with a cup of New England clam chowder ($1.99), a cup of Wisconsin cheese soup ($1.89) -- a special -- and an order of Mozzarella Cheese Sticks ($4.39).
My soup aficionado found the clam chowder very good. I thought it a bit too fishy with a slight metallic tinge. The cheese soup was incredibly thick, almost gravy-like, with bits of ham and celery in it. It had a smoky edge I hadn't expected and easily could have done without it.
We all liked the cheese sticks. They were crisp on the outside with very stringy mellow mozzarella within. The accompanying tomato sauce was mild but flavorful -- great for kids' palates and a nice complement to the cheese sticks.
For entrees, we ordered -- from the children's menu -- grilled cheese ($2.49) and chicken fingers ($2.49). A hearty serving of French fries and a drink were included in the price. There was little comment but both disappeared quickly.
I ordered the All-American Chicken Grille ($7.65), which is two average-size boneless breasts with a seasoning and sauce of your choice. I chose the Santa Fe treatment, a blend of Southwestern spices on the chicken and a tangy salsa on the side. The chicken can also take on the flavors of Nashville, New Orleans or Buffalo.
The chicken was tender and nicely grilled. The Santa Fe spices were hot, but not unpleasantly so. Both the seasoning and the salsa were pleasant additions to the mild taste of chicken. With the chicken came a great baked potato, served uncut, and a crisp and colorful slaw that, to its credit, went easy on the mayo.
When our accommodating waitress turned down the air conditioning -- at my request -- the girls decided they could stay for ice cream. Each tried a Slider Sundae ($1.25), a small sundae served in a miniature Orioles batting helmet.
What a hit they were.
We had one hot fudge and one strawberry. The ice cream and whipped cream were ample and the sauces tasty. We even got to take home the helmets.
I settled for coffee and a sample of the sundaes.
After prompt service early in the meal, we had to wait what seemed like a very long time between dinner and dessert and between dessert and the check. With children, long waits are rarely tolerable, but especially not at the end of the meal. Our waitress was, however, pleasant and smiling throughout, offering extra napkins and other amenities.
Our bill, with one cocktail and one coffee, was $28.67. The food at The Ground Round doesn't seem likely to win any culinary competitions, but for family dining the tolerance level is high and the atmosphere just right -- both for relaxing and for having fun.
** 1/2 The Ground Round 8810 Waltham Woods Road 668-9062 Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, noon to 11:30 p.m.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: Separate areas designated.