The Ground Round was our Family Fun Place


When my family decided to go out to eat, which we did not do that often, we had a bunch of restaurants and diners to choose from. But at some point in the 1980s, and I was not sure why at the time, we started to head to the Ground Round for early dinners and sometimes lunch every other month. I enjoyed our normal food choices, but the announcement we were going to hear to the Ground Round, would cause me to dance around the living room like a sailor on shore leave in a musical based on sailors on shore leave.

Our Ground Round was about a 15 minute drive up Rt. 17 in NJ, for those of you who are familiar with the Garden State. This place was amazing. They showed silent old comedy movies on a big screen and had all you can eat peanuts, which you shelled, and then threw the shells on the floor. I think I usually got the cheeseburger, but what I was really looking forward to was the sundae, which was served in a miniature baseball helmet (several of which, I still have). Sounds pretty great right? Well the fun did not stop there.

After the meal you had a treasure chest of cheap toys and you could pull one toy from it after you finished your meal. Oh, they had several video games in the entrance way. The place literally had everything that I could ever want!

As some point the place contemporized. The peanuts were replaced with popcorn, the silent movies were turned off and the video games disappeared. It happened so quickly, it came as a total surprise to me.

It turns out the reason my family went there was because I was so excited about the place and they thought it was okay enough and wanted to make me happy. I learned this as an adult and it didn’t really surprise me. My family could be pretty awesome, even when I was too young to realize and properly appreciate it.

When I stopped getting excited, we stopped going, but the memories of the place, like how they are featured in this commercial, will always stick with me.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Ryan

    I had one of them by my house as a kid! I used to love getting the popcorn and watching the old movies at dinner. I remember getting chicken fingers all the time…and then the changes happened. No more movies, no more popcorn and the chicken fingers were replaced with duck. As a picky kid, that was a no go for me and I don’t think we ever went back after that.

  2. RetroArt

    The pre-change GROUND ROUND is a childhood legend for me.
    I was never taken to one; the closest being 30+ minutes away.
    But EVERYTHING the Retroist mentions in the post, the old movies projected, the throwing of peanut shells on the floor (!!!), eating ice cream sundaes out of a baseball helmet (???), were regaled by the few lucky kids who got to go there and then dreamily discussed by the deprived many who didn’t.
    But the whole it’s-ok-go-ahead-and-throw-the-peanut-shells-on-the-floor thing just blew my kid mind!
    Which is probably the reason my parents never made the effort to go there; my mother thought it was a dirty place.

  3. Patrick J. Doody

    Are you kidding me? There was a Ground Round in Lincolnwood just neighboring the area of Chicago I grew up in. I LOVED THAT PLACE! The old movies were the best.

    Now, I have a son. And sadly – at least in Los Angeles – there just isn’t a family fun type restaurant like these anymore. They just don’t exist, or at least none I can find.

    So great. Thanks for posting and giving me great memories.

  4. Daniel XIII

    We had one an hour away (the convenience of small town living) that we would go to every few months, and I loved it! I never remember them having peanuts, but the popcorn, silent films and video games remained until the place closed in the mid 90’s.

  5. Glonch

    We went to the Ground Round in North Kingstown RI all the time. Really like the fun house type mirror and the treasure chest. Peanut shells all over the floor… Silent movies playing on some kind of 8 track type cassette (endless loop) – priceless.

    Awesome times.

  6. ddsw

    I, too, grew up loving the Ground Round in NJ. Can’t remember where ours was, near the Monmouth Mall, I think. Gotta love a place that encourages you to throw peanut shells on the floor, and their video games were usually choice. Don’t remember any cheap toys though. I had a birthday party there once.

  7. RetroArt

    There was one by the Monmouth Mall, NJ?!
    What the?!
    My parents LIED to me!

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