Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ted's Montana Grill Food Review

Canyon Creek Bison Burger with Fries & Onion Rings

Leave it to Ted Turner to provide Washingtonians with an abundance of bison choices. Sure, you can find a buffalo bison burger elsewhere (Thunder Burger leaps to mind) but Ted's Montana Grill offers burgers, chili, meatloaf, pot roast... even short ribs! For a guy like me (burgers, burgers, burgers) it was a welcome change... call it a walk on the wilder side.

Before you send a posse after me (I'm doing it again (playing on words) Can a cowboy hat and boots be far behind?) bison isn't really all that wild. It does have a distinct taste however, versus beef; and the kitchen pairs their burgers with ingenious combinations (i.e. bacon, blackberry jam, fried egg and jalapeƱo) to ensure just the right amount of moisture and deliciousness.

Complimentary Pickles

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Lunch at Ted's opens with a plate of juicy, complimentary pickles and friendly, professional service courtesy of server extraordinaire Satch (great name.) Within minutes, I was kicking back with a Blackberry Lemonade (over crushed ice, thank you very much) and a tasty starter of Homemade Chips with ranch onion dip. The former might be my new favorite drink (too bad I can't find it anywhere else) and the latter, a generous mountain of fresh-cut chips, served warm and crunchy. If you think Lays are addictive, just wait until you taste Ted's. An extra sprinkle of salt, and we're talking "award-winning."

Homemade Chips

Timing is everything, and Satch & the kitchen were in perfect sync with my feverish pace. My Canyon Creek burger ($17, $15 for beef) arrived right on time. Each burger comes with hand-cut French fries and your choice of ciabatta, kaiser or oat wheat roll. I went with bison (of course) kaiser and a 50/50 mix of fries and onion rings. The burger was cooked perfectly (MEDIUM, as requested) with the aforementioned explosion of flavors. The blackberry jam is surreal, but I would have loved a few more jalapeƱos, and perhaps a slice of tomato. Not sure how you could fit MORE inside this burger, especially with a fried egg and thick strip of fatty bacon already in the fold. Be warned: It gets messy (Satch quickly provided a second red & white-checkered cloth napkin) and stuff inevitably falls out. Given a second chance (and rest assured, I'll be back) I'd opt for the sturdier ciabatta bread. Overall, delicious. Absolutely delicious.

Strawberry Shortcake

Fries were indeed hand-cut, but nothing too special. Ditto for the onion rings, although kudos for super-thick slices of onion tucked inside a nicely battered exterior. Rings come with horseradish sauce on the side; but I'd love to see a zestier spice mixed directly into the batter (not just salt & pepper.) Truth be told, I may finally be tiring of fries and onion rings in general: I eat way more than my fair share. Garlic Mashed Potatoes are also available (next time) as are Vine-Ripened Tomatoes (I can literally hear my doctor smiling.)

Blackberry Lemonade

By now, I was already stuffed (bison always tends to fill me up.) Still to come... Ted's famous Strawberry Shortcake. I decided to stretch my legs, and visit the restroom to wash my hands. For the record, Ted's has great bathrooms. Old-fashioned but stately (like the rest of the restaurant.) The space is big with lots of cozy booths, and plastic tablecloths with paper maps on top of them. This particular location (Hoffman Town Center) definitely qualifies as a neighborhood establishment. The clientele is especially broad... Young, old and in-between. 9 to 5'ers, military personnel and everyday regulars. Luckily, there's one common denominator: Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Living in the city, I kind of miss the familiarity of having a "favorite place" to eat every day (or other day.)

Lest you think I'm getting sentimental (it's not possible, is it?) let's get back to eating. I now understand why the Strawberry Shortcake is so popular. Sure it tastes good; but it could literally feed three people all by its lonesome. Unique additions/swaps? Ice cream (lots of it) instead of whipped cream, and hearty (almost chewy) biscuit in place of thin crust. Expect plenty of strawberries too; but it's more sauce than whole pieces. The sauce marries better with the ice cream; so I heartily approve. At just $8, it could be the best value dessert in all of Virginia.

It's hard not to feel "at home" here, even though Montana remains one of the half-dozen or so states, I've yet to visit on foot. They had me at Blackberry Lemonade, but any place brave wise enough to play Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" is OK by me. I can't wait to go back, so I can try the Bison Meatloaf and a Wildberry Cheesecake (more blackberries!) Tell Satch to save me a seat.