Friday, November 7, 2008

Ted's Montana Grill, South Windsor, CT November 2008 Grade: A

Joanne and Amy write:

I remember on one of my solo visits to
Ted's Montana Grill, while sitting at the bar at a fairly quiet hour, thinking--as I looked around and burger juice dripped down my chin--"oh my god, Ted Turner is brilliant. This is a diner in disguise! Steak house style dining room in an upscale outdoor mall, with a flattop grill." Just then, I looked over and saw a stainless steel bowl going over a burger to steam it. Diner style, indeed. Despite higher-than-diner prices, Ted's consistently delivers a good burger worth the price. Because I love their burgers and onion rings so much (if I can keep my hand out of the dish of complimentary half-sour pickle coins long enough to eat them), I don't deviate on the menu. Amy, however, who also frequents with her husband, has delved deeper into the menu than I.

The first time I went to Ted's was shortly after it opened four years ago. My husband and I sat at the counter overlooking the kitchen. The cook working in front of us was busy, but he took the time to talk with us and gave us several samples - of the bison chili, the freshly cut french fries, and an onion ring or two. It was dinner and a show--with freebies! I ordered a ribeye that day, and I've ordered it several times since. Available in beef or the slightly sweeter-tasting and much leaner bison, it's always grilled to perfection and drizzled with butter sauce. Between my husband and me, we've tried different soups, steaks, burgers, chicken dishes and seafood at Ted's and we've never been disappointed or gone home hungry. In fact, the only time I didn't leave with leftovers was when I tried the perfectly-portioned Blue Plate Special (diner lingo--maybe Joanne is on to something) of short ribs over mashed potatoes. That one time, I completely cleared my plate.

I go back to Ted's often, not because of their prices, but because of the consistently good food and service I get within a unique concept restaurant. That concept is two-fold: fresh and green. Fresh: Ted's doesn't freeze or microwave anything. Everything is made to order, even the lemonade. Green: Each location recycles, is non-smoking, uses low-voltage lighting, and strives to be 99% plastic-free. The atmosphere also beckons me...I openly declare my love for the Craftsman-style decor while keeping my fondness for the hokey "Montana-at-the-turn-of-the-century" music more secret. But the burgers...that's where it's at. Thick, juicy, with any kind of topping you can think of, they are amazing. Just ask Joanne.

While I ate every single half-sour pickle coin in the dish, Amy started with the tortilla soup, a warm and creamy cup of comfort on a rainy day. For the main attraction, Amy ordered the "naked burger," medium-rare, with fries. I ordered the cheese burger (medium), with American cheese, loaded with mushrooms and bacon. Instead of french fries, I substituted onion rings. Our server accomodated Amy's request for a slice of raw onion, and mine for a side of their horseradish mayonnaise to accompany my onion rings--and which also found its way onto my toasted, buttered, burger bun. Once we assembled our giant creations, the task of getting our mouths around them was worth the reward of the moist and delicious burgers. (Ladies, there's nothing dainty about eating these!) Both my onion rings and Amy's fries were crisp and delicious as well. The Big Sky cabernet sauvignon (exclusive to Ted's) accompanied them well.

This and countless other great dining experiences for both of us at Ted's puts it firmly on our list of favorite restaurants.

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