WATERLOO — The Ground Round — or, rather, a new concept based on the iconic restaurant chain — is back.
GR Kitchen and Taps, attached to the Best Western Plus Executive Residency at 205 W. Fourth St., held its grand opening Tuesday night, just in time for RAGBRAI’s overnight stop in Waterloo.
The restaurant, which features 19 local and regional craft beers and 1919 Root Beer on tap, is the first of its kind in the world, according to Tom Mackey, president and CEO of Ground Round, who flew in for the opening. There hasn’t been a Ground Round restaurant in Waterloo since July 2008, when the location at 1425 E. San Marnan Drive closed after 28 years in business.
“I thought, ‘You know, let’s go back to Waterloo a third time, but let’s go back with a brand-new, great Ground Round concept,’” Mackey said.
That concept, Mackey said, was “built for the millennials and the younger folks,” but will feature great food for “us older folks like me.”
Rod Lundquist, a general partner in the restaurant and vice president of development for Makenda, the ownership group of the Best Western, said the COVID-19 pandemic allowed them to step back and more carefully consider which restaurant to add to their hotel, which Aaron McVicker runs as general manager.
“We just decided the Ground Round had a good name in town,” Lundquist said, particularly fit for their new idea: “They pared down, geared toward the millennials and to the new buying patterns, and came up with this.”
The menu is more scaled down than diners might remember from the old restaurant, he said, but “the hamburgers are still phenomenal.” He said the restaurant features appetizers like the popular tater tots the “size of a golf ball,” sandwiches and burgers, craft and domestic beer, takeout ordering and a large outdoor patio along Commercial Street.
“It really makes for a heck of a nice facility for the restaurant, but also a great attraction for people to come downtown,” Lundquist said of the patio.
Mayor Quentin Hart praised Lundquist as well as his business partner in the hotel, Brian Kern, president and CEO of Makenda.
“Everything they said they would do, they’ve actually done it,” Hart said. “If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be looking at a reconstructed convention center. Their investment in downtown has been incredible.”
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Reporter covering Waterloo, Black Hawk Co. and politics
UNI political communications/journalism grad. Alum of The Calumet (MCC), The Northern Iowan (UNI), Fergus Falls (Minn.) Daily Journal and KWWL. 4-time award-winner while at The Courier. Interested in exposing wrongdoing and holding power to account.