Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ted's Montana Grill

One of my favorite restaurants in South Durham (SoDu for those of you in the know) is Ted's Montana Grill. It's less than 5 minutes from my house and honestly, the quality and service is superb. Our first outing with both my babies was here and we've known many servers and managers by name for years. 

I just realized that we haven't done a review on Stir Crazy and I knew I was the perfect person to delve into all things Ted, so I brought the kids by this month to grab some pics and background into the place "where everybody knows your name".

Ted's Montana Grill was founded by none other than magnet Ted Turner, philanthropist, environmentalist and avid outdoorsman. He has a ranch out west and decided to share his love of Big Sky Country and its tradition of hearty food. He also wanted to celebrate an American icon: the bison who once thundered across the Great Plains. Thirteen years after the first Ted's was founded, the restaurant features the biggest bison menu in the world, making responsibly farmed bison a popular menu choice today in dining and providing incentive for ranchers to actively grow their herds and keep the once endangered animal flourishing.

The best place to sit for families is in the comfy, warmly lit booths. (Although they do also have great high chairs with a unique design that work well at tables. Oh and the outdoor seating is excellent if it's a nice day, like it was when I took the photos here.) As soon as you're seated, the kiddos are given Wiki Sticks, a nice alternative to crayons, and the table is quickly greeted and given what are called half-sours, slices of cucumbers that are halfway to becoming pickles. They are addictive!

One of the things that makes Ted's unique is the impressive attention to details, like the gorgeous paintings of the Old West, the tin ceiling, and even the powdered Boraxo in the restrooms, which you use by getting your hands wet first, then getting the powder to soap up. “Eat Great. Do Good.” is their logo, where they sincerely make environmental considerations a priority in every decision. One example is their compostable paper straws, which I haven't seen anywhere else and the kids love. They also don't use frozen pouches, don't have any microwaves, and pride themselves on avoiding shortcuts. They don't just say they focus on sustainability, they make it a priority, and have partnered with Pro*Act in a groundbreaking, industry-wide sustainability and local produce initiative called Greener Fields Together. It’s the food service industry’s first comprehensive, national farm-to-fork sustainability program, focused on developing relationships with family-owned local farms that are located in our restaurants’ communities. They also partner with the No Kid Hungry campaign, and since 2008, they have raised over half a million dollars for the charity. This year, Ted's goal is to raise $200,000, which is equivalent to 2 million meals for hungry children in America as part of their larger commitment to eliminate childhood hunger in America.

Back to the bison, and why it's so great. It's naturally lean, with considerably less fat and fewer calories than beef. A 3.5 oz. serving of bison contains 2.42 g of fat while the same size of choice beef has 18.54 g, and 143 calories compared to 283. (WOW.) Bison is also more tender, has more protein and is nutrient-rich. The way they are raised is also important. Bison are grass-fed, allowed to roam, and are not given hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals. Because of these reasons, I always get bison instead of a normal burger at Ted's, and this time was no different. 

For this visit, I decided to order something off their brand new gluten free menu. I got my favorite style burger, the Avalon, which has Gruyère, Blue Cheese, bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli, and baby arugula. I also always switch out the fries for parmesan broccoli and a sweet potato... just writing about it is making my mouth water! The bun is completely gluten free and the kitchen works hard to prevent cross contamination. If burgers aren't your thing, they offer several other GF options as well. In fact, readers voted their GF menu as best! (I also noticed another new menu addition, a kale salad, with roasted corn, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. Looked great but I knew I wouldn't have room for it!)

I also ordered a Ruby River cocktail, a blend of strawberry infused gin and lime juice - so refreshing. My other favorites are the Mountain Breeze and Buffalo 41, you honestly can't go wrong with any of them. My kids as always opted for the fresh squeezed lemonade - bless those strong arms of the bartenders. You can see them squeeze it from your table! 

Our food arrived and the kids dug into their sliders and grilled cheese, and I was really impressed with the gluten free bun. It looked delectable and tasted even better. If I hadn't known it was GF, I would have assumed it was a normal bun. It definitely was a healthy alternative to the one I usually get, and I plan on substituting it from now on. 

We were full so we didn't get dessert, but it was tempting. They now serve "adult shakes" if you're in the mood for dessert, made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream and amazingly delicious combinations like Jack Daniel's and salted caramel, or Kahlua, Bailey's and chocolate. Yum.... But our family's favorite is their Strawberry Shortcake, which has a fresh made drop biscuit with berries and homemade whipped cream. 

If you haven't been, I urge you to check out Ted's Montana Grill, where they treat guests with the "big sky spirit", and serve fresh, sustainable American fare in a nostalgic atmosphere. I know I'm a fan for life.  

boraxo powdered soap

mounted bison above the bar

left side of the dining room

 the bar

the gorgeous lanterns and tin ceiling

a closer look at the gluten free bun

What we liked: Honestly, I kinda love everything about Ted's. As if you can't tell from the review!

What we would change: They used to have a delicious chicken fried chicken sandwich that was phenomenal, but they change out the menu to suit customer tastes, and added all the new dishes I mentioned above, so I can't fault them for that. 

The details: 
Ted's Montana Grill, 6911 Fayetteville Rd., Suite 102, Durham
Hours: Sun - Thurs 11 AM - 10 PM, Fri - Sat 11 AM - 11 PM

Montana Ted's provided free food for me to sample during my visit. However, I am a long time customer and big fan and all opinions are my own. - Kat

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