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The food is fresh and almost always house-made at Grounds and Gold in South Arlington. Photo by Laurie James.

During the middle of the COVID pandemic, Maurice Ahern expanded Gold Ribbon Confections, the baking enterprise he began in 2017, into Grounds and Gold, a coffee shop/cafe with a little event space. Both Ahern’s bakery and his new eatery bear bittersweet tribute to his son Micah, who died of the pediatric cancer neuroblastoma in 2016. And judging by the steady stream of people wanting to get their coffee and pastries on, Grounds and Gold’s got the goods.

Grounds and Gold, 4130 S Bowen Rd, Arlington. 682-252-4633. Closed Sun, 7am-7pm Mon-Thu, 7am-8pm Fri, 8am-8pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

The menu is loaded with baked confections, small plates, salads, and sandwiches. During a morning breakfast visit, my dining companion and I goggled at the bakery case: The klobasneks (sausage rolls that are usually lumped in with their cousins, the fruit-and-cheese-filled kolaches), cinnamon rolls, scones, and quiches looked amazing. There are vegan and gluten-free options for almost every pastry, and there’s a larger list of whole pies, cakes, and cheesecakes if you’re looking to take dessert home with you.

From the biscuit selection, the Chef’s Choice was loaded with a generous serving of egg and avocado, sandwiched between a slightly crispy-on-the-top house-made biscuit to which a strategic application of faintly peppery aioli had been applied. The sandwich also included a small portion of bacon and some melted Manchego cheese. The subtle flavor of the Italian cheese was almost lost to the savory aioli. I found it when my overstuffed biscuit fell apart, and I surrendered to the need to use a fork. The fresh, warm, flaky biscuit, fluffy scrambled egg, and creamy avocado were absolutely satisfying.

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The gluten-free muffin was the closest one could get to the real deal I’ve found in years. Coarse sugar top? Check. Loads of blueberries embedded into a slightly sweet muffin? Check. The only thing that was missing was the tell-tale gritty mouth-feel that seems to accompany a lot of GF baked goods.

It seemed odd to order a small plate of the all-beef Mama’s Meatballs at breakfast, but more protein was needed to combat the carb splurge laid out on the table. The ping-pong-ball-sized gems weren’t uniform –– a sure sign that they were house-made –– and savory herbs flecked the surface and the center. The ramekin bearing the eight portion-controlled balls came covered in a lovely crust of Parmesan cheese, along with a handful of crostini for dipping into the marinara sauce that accompanied the meatballs. Unfortunately, the sweet, slightly acidic sauce was lukewarm, although the meatballs were a perfect temperature. The balls also come as a lunch item sandwich, with grilled onions and peppers on fresh-baked bread.

Also ordered for balance, the Cobb salad didn’t disappoint. A variety of mixed lettuce (heavy on the red leaf, radicchio, and frisée with no iceberg in sight) formed the perfect base for bacon crumbles, tomatoes, purple pickled eggs, more Manchego cheese and avocado, and a scrumptious garlicky ranch dressing. The eggs were lightly pickled (barely sour) and were a pretty, if odd, touch to the mélange of greens. The nicest thing was that the salad was well-tossed so that when you dug to the bottom of the dish, you came up with a nicely balanced bite of lettuce and proteins. The full serving was too much for two people to eat at one sitting.

The single disappointment at our table: the breakfast tacos. The duo came out loaded with egg, potato, and bacon (for an upcharge) on corn tortillas that were nowhere close to being house-made. The one item in the entire restaurant that was semi-homemade was also the only dish on the table that was remotely average.

Grounds and Gold is settled in an Arlington strip mall near a liquor store and a nail salon –– it’s a little off the beaten path. But the home-baked goodies make it worth a bit of travel, and if you live between 287 and the Parks Mall, you know how few non-chain restaurants exist near there. Stop by, grab a cup of coffee and a pastry, and consider writing a postcard for a kid at Cook Children’s Medical Center’s cancer unit –– Micah would approve.

 

Grounds and Gold
Chef’s Choice biscuit $8
Mama’s Meatballs and toast $8
Breakfast taco w/bacon $5
Gluten-free blueberry muffin $3
The Cobb $10
Drip coffee $2.50

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