I recently had to run our daughter into Chicago for her to fly out to England to meet our other daughter who is studying in Spain this year. She said that since she wasn't going to be eating for awhile while traveling, she wanted a "stick-to-your-ribs" kind of meal before she left. I decided to take her to Ted's Montana Grill.
I've written about Ted's here first as a steakhouse; then again as a burger joint. They bill themselves as a classic American grill that happens to serve comfort food. I do like their bison steaks and burgers - the best of their kind that I've ever had. But they also serve something called bison pot roast and I've always wanted to try it.
We got in to the Ted's in suburban Schaumburg just before noon and we were promptly seated in a spacious booth. Our waitress was a red-haired Scottish lady with a big smile, Wilma. Within 90 seconds we found out that Wilma retired from United Airlines after working 30 years as stewardess, she was working part-time at Ted's because the airlines cut 50% of her pension, she celebrated her 60th birthday in her native Scotland, and the actor Sean Connery kissed her on the cheek on her birthday. She was a real trip and I liked her immediately.
She asked if we'd ever been to Ted's before. Oh, yes. I told her I'd been to different Ted's Montana Grill's many times before. She said, "So you're a veteran, now. You know the story, then."
I said I did, but my daughter didn't. She talked about the lunch menu and the daily blue plate specials. The special that day was a slow roasted pork loin with cooked carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Out of the blue she offered us a sample of their bison pot roast. I hadn't completely been sold on getting the pot roast as of yet. (I thought about getting a bison burger, only cooked a little longer this time than the last time I had a burger there.) She brought us out two small bowls with shredded bison meat over mashed potatoes with a little gravy. I have to say it was very good. So, I went with the bison pot roast (which is available daily) and my daughter went with the pork loin blue plate special.
While we were waiting for our food, the day manager came over, introduced himself, shook my hand and said, "I understand that you're a veteran of Ted's Montana Grill." I told him that I travel a lot and I try to stay away from chains, but I've never been steered wrong by eating at a Ted's. I was hoping he'd give me a gift certificate, but that never materialized.
Wilma brought our food out and the pork loin with carrots and mashed potatoes was exactly what my daughter was looking for. And the bison pot roast with mashed potatoes, gravy and a side of green beans was just great for me. The bison meat was tender and the gravy was a excellent complement to the meal.
I was intrigued by the gravy so I asked Wilma after I'd finished what was in it. She said, "Oh, you know I should know this, but I'll check in the kitchen."
She came back out and said the gravy with the pork loin was a combination of chardonnay wine, cream and natural juices, while the beef gravy was also a combination of natural juices from the meat and Kitchen Bouquet. I could have sworn there was some red wine in there with it, but Wilma said, "Nope, Kitchen Bouquet and juices. I know it doesn't sound glamorous, but it's good, isn't it?"
It was a spot hitter.
I'm always looking for a "stick-to-your-ribs" meal on the road and I'll be going back to Ted's Montana Grill for the bison pot roast again.
(Update - Ted's Montana Grill closed a number of restaurants in the fall of 2010, including the one in Schaumburg. That's too bad because many of them were in places that I travel to - Wichita, Omaha and Kansas City. I suppose with such strong competition for steakhouses in those markets, Ted's Montana Grill felt it would be better to focus on markets where they could succeed. Another reason why this particular Ted's probably shut down was that a Weber Grill Restaurant opened just up the road from the old Ted's location in late 2006. That particular Weber Grill location was always packed. However, I'm not without a Ted's in my travels. There are still 3 in the greater Chicago region and a couple in Indianapolis.)