Jay Fox's Dining Guide
BEEF or BISON? – TELL TED
TED’S MONTANA GRILL
“There’s two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works” — Will Rogers
THE STORY LINE GOES LIKE THIS. “Founded by media entrepreneur and environmentalist Ted Turner and acclaimed restaurateur George McKerrow Jr, Ted’s Montana Grill is a classic American Grill featuring fresh, made-from-scratch comfort food within an authentic turn-of-the-century Montana grill atmosphere.
The first Ted’s Montana Grill opened in January 2002 in Columbus, Ohio, and has grown to 46 restaurants in 16 states.”
CEO and co-founder George McKerrow Jr. is a Buckeye so I can’t be too tuff on this restaurant chain. Particularly since I’m the treasurer of THE Ohio State University Alumni Club of the Rocky Mountains. Yeah, OK, so I’m old. BSBA ’65. Shudda graduated in ’60, but I missed a few appointments.
Aside from being a Buckeye, George has mega experience in the restaurant trade, having worked for Victoria’s Station (remember that great eatery?), was founder of LongHorn Steakhouse. That became part of RARE Hospitality International who at one time owned the Capital Grille which y’all know is muh fav. RARE was sold to Darden Foods in 2007. The man has the knowhow. His only fault is that he lives in Georgia. That’s where they still call a rib-eye steak a Delmonico. Kinda like New York South.
As of press time there are nine stores in Colorado, seven of which are in metro Denver, one in Boulder and one in Colorado Springs. All but one other store located in Bozeman, Montana, are located east of the Mississippi.
I’ve eaten about 100 times at one of the Denver area stores. Of those 100 or so visits, probably 80 times I ordered a bugger. Unfortunately I’ve sent a goodly number of buggers back cuz it didn’t appear to be cooked to my liking. I’m like that; oughta get it the way I want it. I tend to order rare when I want it medium rare, so if the kitchen overcooks the bugger, it’s usually ok. If they undercook I can send it back for some more heat without ruining a perfectly good patty. The problem with Ted’s is that I can’t always tell. Methinks I may have rejected several that ought not to have been rejected cuz of the way they prepare and cook their buggers.
I had a very interesting chat with corporate chef Chris Raucci in Atlanta. He explained to me their unusual cooking technique. At each store they grind 80/20 Angus chuck (the best you can get) fresh several times a day. Here’s where they differ from every other eatery. They don’t form the patties until they’re ordered. When a bugger is ordered, they take a glob of meat and weigh it. Then they hand form it very loosely, season it on both sides and put it on the flat top grill and cover it with a dome. The dome helps seal in the juices. I think the dome confuses the bugger and cooks it faster. Sometimes I’ll order the bugger to remain dome-less, but it looks exactly the same post cooking. Therein is the problem. When the patty is loosely packed, it falls apart on the bun. I think the dome causes the meat to steam and doesn’t cook from the outside in; it cooks it evenly and so there is never a “pink” bugger. Sometimes you’ll get a very red small center, and other times it comes brown throughout. In the former case it appears undercooked, and in the latter case it appears overcooked when it really isn’t. But I love the bugger and I especially love their buns. Sometimes I get their sliders cuz they come thick and juicy. I don’t want anything on muh bugger, ‘ceptin meat and seasoning and bun. So maybe I’m fussier. Once in a while I’ll get some sautéed onions on it. If it comes out a bit overdone, it’s still yummy. Then for the next hour or so, the onion reminds me that I was too demanding and it spanks me. I know, TMI.
I have on occasion ordered something other than a bugger. Y’all ain’t gonna believe this but I order a salad. Yeah, me ordering a salad, y’all know better. But this is one huge, fresh and delish salad with meat, preferably chicken. Lotsa perfectly cooked warm chicken. You can get it with chicken, salmon, or a bugger patty. Don’t care for the salmon cuz it’s too smoky for my taste. I like most everything else there. The bison short ribs and the bison meat loaf are killer. Prime rib (available only certain times) is excellent. Everything is prepared from scratch. Ain’t no frozen pouches in this kitchen.
The menu is rather expansive, with changes fairly regularly. Besides what I’ve already mentioned, they serve steaks, chicken, crab cakes, trout, and lotsa veggies. I’m particularly fond of the squash casserole, even tho y’all know that I hate casseroles. The house-made fries are super good ceptin’ a bit on the salty side. The onion rings are excellent and the sour pickles that come to the table with every meal are fantastic. The house-made potato chips are the best in town, and all the salads are exceptional. They even serve yummy desserts including the best house-made chocolate chip cookies.
If I’m really hungry I’ll start with the super yummy Karen’s “Flying-D” bison chili. While I’m not normally fond of American chili (IDON’DO beans), this stuff blows my mind. Hmmm. Seems I get lotsa stuff here that I don’t order anywhere else. I guess I like the place. Service is always first class here, professional and friendly.
Speaking of bison, which is what Ted Turner is known for cuz he has a kazillion of them suckas on his ranch. Most folks refer to the animal as buffalo, but it’s really bison which is technically not the same. There are no buffalo in North America. I’m not a fan of bison meat cuz it doesn’t have enuf fat to give it real flavor. If you want bison, order it a degree lower than you would order beef. As in, if you eat a beef bugger medium, order bison medium rare. Kapish?
There are other reasons to visit Ted’s. On a recent visit to the store at Aspen Grove, with muh cuz and her family from Wyoming, we had fun over the products in the restrooms. LOL. The restroom he sez… Now here’s where I went a bit nutso with the research. The soap in the restroom is Boraxo. Cuz it’s from them days way back yonder.
Boraxo. Come on folks, you remember that old “20 mule team” commercials — what did they call that entertainment medium? Ray-dee-oo. Anywho, the stuff is gross. It’s like rubbing coarse sand into your pores. You can also buy Boraxo toothpaste. v20 Mule Team Borax was named after the 20-mule teams that were used by William Tell Coleman’s company to move borax out of Death Valley, California, to the nearest rail spur between 1883 and 1889. Your great-great-grandmother used it as a laundry booster.
The Pacific Coast Borax Company sponsored Death Valley Days, a radio and television anthology dramatizing true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. The program was created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman and broadcast on radio until 1945.
From 1952 to 1975, Death Valley Days was produced as a syndicated television series. One of Ronald Reagan’s (y’all remember Ronnie, the guy who usta nap a lot on TV?) final television roles was as host of Death Valley Days in 1964-65. Reagan also acted in several episodes. Today the stuff is being made but now by Dial Soap. Sorry, it’s still disgusting stuff; worse than sand paper.
Anywho, so you’ll think these restaurants are Old West, they use Boraxo soap in the johns. Methinks the cooks put a tad in their burgers to make them come out the way they do. Just kiddin’, Chef, really. Now you know more about borax and the Old West than you ever wanted to.
Jay Fox, our esteemed dining critic, is a meat and potatoes guy, with a little chicken sometimes. He can be reached at: email@example.com.