There are many things that should be part of a restaurant critic's working kit. Credit cards, first and foremost, or a large wad of cash. A healthy appetite and a willingness to eat (almost) anything put before you. One of those noise-o-meters would be cool, so that you could determine where, exactly, a room fell between a mouse fart and a 747 at takeoff. A variety of prescription and OTC drugs — and for more dire circumstances, everything from a flare pistol to a suicide pill.
But what I really wanted on my visit to Ted's Montana Grill in Southlands, the newest of the five Ted's restaurants in the metro area, was a scale. That way, I could say with authority that a single hundy brought no less than twenty pounds of food for the four of us who ate there recently.
Now, I am not a guy who demands large portions or feels cheated when I don't have leftovers. Nor am I one of those who automatically equates beneficence in the kitchen with a dearth of quality. But I do think that a reasonable cut-off in portion size can be determined by the load that a single, husky waitress can deliver one-handed — and at Ted's, our waitress needed not just one friend to help deliver our food, but three.
The buffalo burger was half the size of my head and required a trencher that would've given Henry VIII pause; the onion rings on the side were so large that a child could have put his fist through the middle without getting crumbs on his knuckles. The bison short ribs looked as though they'd been taken off a small rhinoceros and lay nestled delicately against a mini-Kilimanjaro of garlic mashed potatoes. And though I'm sure the steaks are cut precisely to the advertised portion by an army of Ted Turner's personal butchers, there was something about the paving-stone-sized slabs of meatloaf that made a fourteen-ounce Delmonico ribeye look positively petite.
I don't love it as I do Oceanaire (see page 52), but I'm actually rather fond of Ted's. I appreciate how none of his eleven million locations uses microwaves or freezers. I like how the kitchens scratch-make a lot of their food, and how the servers are under orders to push Ted's brand of very decent bison whenever they can — even going so far as to offer free samples that, unsurprisingly, are as large as a petite filet somewhere else. And even though Ted's goes a bit overboard on the earth-lovin' (the biodegradable straw biodegraded before I was done with my fountain-style cherry Coke), at least the man is trying.