Open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Sunday and Monday; open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:15 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5:15 to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. Parking in restaurant's own lot. Accepts all credit cards. Reservations advised. Accessible to the handicapped.
Our family became addicted to the salad bar this summer when we traveled through Michigan, Ohio and upper New York state. Restaurants throughout those states have serve-yourself tables heaped with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped eggs and other good little things to eat.
When we heard that the Jolly Ox in Rockville had a salad bar, we were ready to try it. We also heard that steaks and lobsters were in the $8 to $10 price category, so I telephoned ahead to ask about lower prices for children. When the hostess said there was a children's menu, we felt fairly sure we wouldn't end up having a $50 dinner.
Jolly Ox is in a Tudor-styled building on Old Georgetown Road. It's manned by young hostesses, young waiters and even younger busboys, who were polite an enthusiastic. Before we were seated, the hostess asked if we preferred a smoking or non-smoking room. We appreciated the opportunity to avoid cigarette smoke during our dinner.
The menus at Jolly Ox are printed on cleavers. Each weighs several pounds - or so it seemed - and we were sure no guests walked off with one as a souvenir. The menu listed 13 entrees, ranging in price from $5.95 for London broil or beef on a lance to $10.45 for steak and lobster.
We didn't see a children's menu, so we asked our waiter. He told us the menus were being printed, but he knew the choices by heart: steak for $3.95, chicken breast for $2.35, chopped sirloin for $1.95 and Sir Lance (a shishkabob) for $1.95.
We gave the waiter our order for the main course, but saw no reason to try the one appetizer, crab cocktail for $2.55, when there was all that salad to eat. While my husband and I had a cocktail, our children had Shirley Temples and made an early raid on the salad bar. They were hungry, and we were glad to have them fill up on salad, rather than bread or crackers.
When my husband and I went to the salad bar, 15 minutes later, we found a kettle of kidney bean soup at one end of the table and the salad makings spread out over six feet of table. There was lettuce in a large bowl, followed by smaller bowls of cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, pickled cauliflower, shredded red cabbage, chopped beets, bean sprouts, bean salad, scallions, cottage cheese, canned peaches and pears, bacon bits, croutons and a choice of five dressings.
The soup could have been hotter and richer, but the salad was fresh and crisp. It was also filling. Between the soup, salad and hot bread that arrived with our drinks, we were no longer keen on the main course.
When our food arrived, we did justice to it anyway. Our son, 9, had the seven-ounce steak, which was served with rice pilaf. He managed to finish all his meat and said the steak was fine. Our daughter, 11, ordered the Sir Lance which, because it was $1.95, we were sure would be too small a portion. It wasn't. The shishkabob was nicely broiled and attractively served with rice, green pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes. My husband had a steak and a crab combination at $8.45. The steak was overcooked, and when we told the waiter about it, he whisked it away and returned five minutes later with a juicier, rarer piece of meat. I had Poacher's Platter, chicken breast in a marinade. It was quite good, although we were disappointed in the mushrooms we ordered for $1.75.
When we asked about dessert, our waiter told us there was none; the refrigerator was broken. If it hadn't been, we could have chosen between ice cream and cheesecake. Instead, one of us returned to the salad bar and brought back peaches and pears - a fine ending to our dinner.
The check, which was for four dinners, two cocktails, two Shirley Temples, an order of mushrooms and one coffee, came to $25.24.