Given the hundreds of visits to my posting last month regarding a pre-opening introduction to Ted’s Montana Grill, I deemed it fitting that I drop by for a first glance on the grand opening night for Naperville’s newest downtown restaurant offering.
I mentioned the idea of heading down on opening night to my wife earlier today, yet wondered whether we would be able to get a table. To our relief, a soft Monday opening means we would not have to wait a long time.
Upon arrival, we were immediatley impressed by the interior aesthetics which suggests casual semi-sophistication with a nice welcoming western accent. Wood abounds in this beautifully converted space which formerly housed Oswald’s pharmacy. Through the revolving door and toward the three quick steps we headed only to be greeted by a host who actually walked down the steps to welcome us. There’s allot to be said for the enthusiastic service of a new restaurant trying to make a strong impression on it’s opening night. We were immediately ushered down what seemed like a mile long walk to the back portion of the restaurant to a nice booth/table combo. To the left, there was a short and slender yet inviting bar area separated by glass. We ventured further into the restaurant, it was easy to see a decent Monday night crowd was settling in for a first taste.
Upon being seated, our waitress promptly approached us with a friendly and welcoming attitude. At this point, we got our first glance at both the wine and dinner menus. Our waitress introduced us to what seems to be a philosophy Ted’s, which is a rotating menu of evening special for each day of the week. Judging by the fact the night’s special was country fried steak with gravy, Ted’s southern influence was evident. Though we chose not indulge in a cocktail, I noticed that the wine menu consisted of a respectable variety including Ted’s own private label offerings. Other softer drink options includes fresh squeezed lemonade and even the option to drink coke in glass bottles (fountain drinks also available).
The first thing you notice upon opening the menu is the diversity of carnivore offerings emphasizing both bison and beef with a touch of seafood and other southern-influenced comfort foods, including jumbo shrimp, cedar plank Salmon, beer can chicken and meatloaf.
The second and perhaps most welcoming observation was the menu prices, which generated reverse sticker shock as everything seemed quite approachable, with the most expensive steak being their 9 oz. filet at $25.99 which includes two generous side items. The 14 oz. Delmonico Ribeye goes for $21.99 and once again includes two side items. Most other entree’s, including their much heralded fresh cedar plank Salmon, runs between $10.99 to $14.99. For those looking for one of their “world famous” burgers or chicken sandwiches, you will pay between $7.99 and $12.89 and come served with fresh cut fries. Even before experiencing how this type of value translates into taste, it was clear to see Ted’s would be as strong a contender for the lunch crowd as it will with the dinner crowd.
Another noticable trait of Ted’s is a strong environmental conscience, which includes recycled paper table coverings and even recycled coated straws. Though it felt like sipping a soda through a paper towell roll at first, I quickly grew comfortable with this interesting recycled alternative.
On with the taste portion of this review. Our waitress confidently boasted about the grilled jumbo shrimp appetizer, which comes on a grilled sourdough roll with a side of garlic butter, as being the largest shrimp you have ever seen. As past postings in the World of Naperville suggest, I am a seafood lover and I had to see this one for myself. Could Ted’s jumbo shrimp be larger than Dublin prawn or Fabian Seafood’s giants?
The appetizer arrived with four fresh grilled jumbo shrimp on a skewer atop the grilled sourdough roll seasoned and grilled with lemon and other seasonings. While not the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen, the size was considerable, fresh-tasting and an excellent value for $9.99. It could almost serve as a meal in itself. The bread was not only a great compliment, but also delicious.
My wife had a dinner salad which featured their house BLT ranch dressing which was outstanding. For dinner, I decided to go straight for the 14 oz. Delmonico Bison Ribeye nice and rare for $24.99 given the fact I had never had a Bison steak. The waitress assured me the meat was a bit sweeter and was a better nutritional value given it’s limited marbling and higher degree of tenderness.
For sides, my eyes had already spied the larger-than-life onion rings sitting on other guest’s tables and the buttered broccoli was also selected to curb a tiny bit of my carnivore guilt. My wife opted for the 7oz. tenderloin filet at $20.99 and selected the asparagus and baked potato as a side.
After anxious anticipation, our entrees arrived and any doubt I had as to whether the food would taste as good as the prices quickly subsided. The first thing I noticed was both of our steaks were clearly well seared on each side which served to lock in the maximum amount of juices. After carving into my bison ribeye, it was easy to see the payoff for the heavy searing. The meat was juicy tender with a rich light flavor reminiscent of it’s beef relative. The seasoning consisted of lemon and basic spices which generated a nice balance between the flavor of the meat and the seasonings. One shortcoming was the amount of lemon which overpowered the juices which flood into a pool on your plate. The onion rings were otherworldly and in my wife’s estimation the best she had ever had. I have to agree they rank quite high on my list as well. Dredged in what is likely corn meal and flour with a ample concentration of salt and pepper, the enormous onion rings were not terribly greasy despite having been fried. Our waitress indicated there was a special machine which the restaurants uses to get the onion rings just right. The onions were tender and sweet.
As for side orders, Ted’s achieves something I think is a powerful yet often overlooked aspect of any meal… the side items. My wife’s asparagus was tender and well flavored while maintaining a nice crispness. The buttered broccoli was full of flavor and cooked perfectly. Finally, pan yeast rolls accompany each entree and are not only delicious but also remind me of my mother’s southern cooking.
Though I was already quite stuffed by the end of the meal, I deemed it important to throw myself onto the proverbial sword of gluttony in trying dessert knowing I wanted to write a posting about my experience. Ted’s offerings include oven fresh cookies ranging from snickerdoodles to chocolate chip. I settled on the feature dessert, which was Key Lime Pie. I’m a stickler for good key lime pie and figured this would be a true test. I asked our waitress whether the pie was green or yellow and her response of “green” told me we weren’t talking true key lime. Nonetheless, I proceeded. The pie arrived resembling more of a jello box cheesecake looking dessert than key lime pie, complete with a thick graham cracker crust. The pie filling was white with a tint of light green, thick and appropriately tangy which somewhat redeemed the fact it was not true key lime. Overall, I would rate it satisfactory with tinge of curiosity as to how good the cookies may have tasted.
Overall, mine and my wife’s consensus was Ted’s is a solid value with excellent taste and atmosphere. As for service, they are off to a good start though all the extra attention was partially possible because Ted’s was far from slammed on this opening night. It was nice making the long trek back to the front of the restaurant being thanked by every single wait staff we came across. For those wondering how Ted’s will mesh with the downtown restaurant scene, my analysis as a marketer is Ted’s fills a much needed void in local offerings in terms of price point for the level of quality, atmosphere and experience it delivers. For those of you who can’t bear the guilt of paying $40 for a steak and $12 extra for sides in downtown, Ted’s will be a welcome downtown Naperville destination. Even more, with it’s abundance of burgers, chicken and affordable options, the place should be as popular for lunch as it is for dinner. Welcome to town Ted and we definitely see ya’ll again real soon.