Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Burger Quest-Ted's Montana Grill, South Windsor, CT

The Burger Quest takes us this week to Ted’s Montana Grill.  They are located in South Windsor at Evergreen Walk.  The chain is co-owned by Ted Turner, who happens to be the second largest landowner in the United States, and George McKerrow Jr.  a restaurateur with a long, successful history in the food business.  Bison, not beef is their specialty.  Ted Turner has over fifty thousand head of bison grazing on his various land holdings.  The bison are naturally fed, and are free of antibiotics and growth hormones.  Bison were nearly killed off during the nineteenth century due to climate change, higher demand for food and hides and the introduction of rifles.  In 1883 the bison population was nearly extinct. 

In the beginning of the twentieth century there were more bison in zoos than “on the range.” Bison were gradually introduced back into wild. Ranchers began to see bison as a viable product for the food industry.  By the seventies, there was enough genetic diversity to begin to produce them for market. 

Bison has significantly less fat than beef.  More iron too.  However, less fat does not mean less flavor.  Bison, as I found out is delicious.   On to the restaurant!  Walking into Ted’s transports us back to an old time saloon.  The ceilings are covered in tin panels.  The walls are a cream colored with embossed fleur-de-lys.  This is offset with rich, dark wood paneling.  The lighting is low and subdued.  The benches and chairs are covered in black upholstery.  It is very comfortable.  The only thing needed to complete the picture would have been a brass spittoon.  Wait, there was one to put your business cards into. The waiter promptly gives us our menus and asks if this is the first time to Ted’s.  When we say it is, he launches into an interesting narrative telling us that this is a “scratch” kitchen.  Really?  All the produce is delivered fresh, all the meat is prepared daily.  All of the side dishes, sauces, and even the lemonade and margarita mix are prepared on the premises. 

There is a good mix of appetizers, soups, chilies, entrees and desserts on the menu.  Yes, you can even get a veggie burger if you are so inclined.  The burgers can be ordered either in beef or bison.   Same thing with the steaks.  We naturally opt for the bison.  I go for the “Kitchen Sink” on a Kaiser roll.  The Sink has an 8-ounce bison patty, topped with American cheese, ham, bacon, grilled onions and mushrooms, along with; you guessed it, a fried egg.  My wife Sal goes for the Delicious Duo, two three-ounce beef and bison cheeseburgers.  My son Aaron goes for the New Mexico in bison.  This burger has Pepper Jack cheese, roasted Anaheim peppers, and a spicy onion jam along with made from scratch guacamole.    He also orders a cup of bison chili and onion rings for the table.  Ah youth! We start out with a round of margaritas.  Sal, goes for a lemonade. The Margaritas arrive. They are a great balance of sour, sweet and salty.  The lemonade is superb too.  As we are chatting the onion rings appear.  They are gigantic. Hand cut and breaded.  Hot, crispy, crunchy with not the least amount of grease.  Excellent o-rings.  The horseradish sauce was unfortunately underwhelming.  It didn’t have that sharp kick that I like in horseradish.  Aaron loved the bison chili.  Good combination of bison and beans.  Great flavor and the onions, cheese and jalapeños added a nice contrast to the meat.

We finished the o-rings and here comes the entrees.  Sigh!  I really like to wait a bit between courses, but I guess the chef was over-eager.  Oh-oh we have a problem.  Sal ordered her dish with sweet potato fries and instead there were regular fries.  I didn’t get my fries at all.  The waiter goes back to the kitchen to fix this.  He comes back, apologizes and tells us the fries will be coming soon.  The burgers are eagerly waiting so we dive in.  Bison is phenomenal!  Leaner, a bit less juicy, but denser than beef.  The flavor is out of this world.  Not gamey at all.  Slightly sweeter than beef, but robust with a great texture.  The onions, eggs, cheese and bun all add to the fantastic taste.  Sal is impressed with both the bison and beef cheeseburgers.  Aaron loved his burger, but couldn’t pick out the onion jam.  He did like the nice char on the patty and the guacamole was very flavorful. 

The waiter finally comes with the correct fry order.  Hand cut fries, hot out the fryer.  Crispy, crunchy with a bold potato taste.  Aaron and Sal loved the sweet potato fries too.  The waiter gave us free cookies to make up for the “great fry debacle,” and apologizes again.  No problem.  The meal was fantastic.  I am a convert to bison.  I am eagerly waiting to going back and try a bison steak or filet. 

All of this deliciousness comes at a price.  The price is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.  Chili, onion rings, two margaritas, and three entrees, totaled $85.07. Ouch! My burger alone was $18 with the beef version weighing in at $15.  The least expensive bison burger was The Naked, just bun and burger for $13.  Add another buck for cheese. 

The Burger Quest has a lot of competitors.   There are a surprising amount of great burger joints in Connecticut.  Ted’s goes to near the top of the list.  An absolutely fantastic product, but the service was not up to the standards of Max Burger.  Value wise, this was at the top of the mark.  Taste, well try it yourself.  You will not be disappointed.  I’m off the gym, and having salad tonight!

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