Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ted's Montana Grill - Review

My wife Kathy and I were roaming the corridors of the Triangle Town Center shopping mall one day and we decided to check out the restaurants the Center had to offer just outside their doors. One that caught our eye was Ted's Montana Grill. We stepped inside at about 4:45. The atmosphere seemed to be of western flavor, characterized by a great bust of a bison mounted on the wall.

The host was rather unenthusiastic, and seated us in a booth against a wall near several other already seated groups of guests, even though the restaurant was sparsely patronized at that early hour of the evening. I can understand that servers have their "stations," and that early evening staffs are probably few in numbers, but it always amuses me how the hosts will cluster all newly arriving guests in the same spot in a relatively empty restaurant. I guess it's more convenient to THEM than to consider that early evening guests of a restaurant may want a bit of privacy.

Anyway, I digress. Once we were seated, the server who greeted us was very enthusiastic - one of the most memorable we have had in recent months. We soon found out why the bison was so prominently represented throughout the dining area. It turns out that Ted's offers bison versions of most of their entrees as well as more traditional beef versions. Kathy and I were in the mood for hamburgers, and the server asked if we had ever tried bison burgers. We had not. She said we should try it, as bison is much less fatty and more flavorful than beef. She offered to bring us a sample taste. We said why not - bring it on. She returned a moment later with two toothpicks, each containing a bite of bison burger on a plate. She waited as we tried the bite and savored its taste. Simultaneously, we both nodded our heads in approval, as the server might have expected, and she asked our opinion. We both stated it was good, and ordered the bison burgers as our entree. It was a great meal. We knew we wanted to return to Ted's.

Our Second Visit

Our second visit to Ted's was somewhat regrettable. Though we thoroughly enjoyed the bison burgers on our first visit, we did not have such luck on our return. We were celebrating our anniversary and wanted to do something special, so we decided to return to Ted's to try the bison steaks. After all, if the bison burgers were so tasty, it was no extension to assume the steaks should be equally as enjoyable. Not so, it turns out. I could definitely taste a difference between the bison "Kansas City" steak versus the less expensive beef version, but to me, the taste was somewhat bitter and I did not care for it. Kathy found her platter equally disappointing.

We both felt a bit short-changed, given we had a less than great experience with our meal, combined with the fact that we were celebrating a milestone and this kind of ruined it for us. Next anniversary, we planned to choose a more reliable destination. We decided we had given Ted's its due, and perhaps it just wasn't for us, at least not for steaks.

Our Third Visit

But to Ted's we were destined to return, for we had been the recipient of a gift card to the restaurant.

This time, I elected to give the place a thorough review, perhaps to assist others in their quest for a new dining experience in the Triangle. For what it's worth, here is our most recent experience with Ted's Montana Grill in the Triangle Town Center.

As we approached the establishment, we saw a staff member standing at the outside door preparing to open it for our arrival. He greeted us kindly, and as we stepped past him, he said in a hushed voice, "Short Ribs - Short Ribs." I hadn't heard what he was saying, so I asked and he told me he was encouraging people to order the short ribs. I was amused, but I'm uncertain all guests would feel that way.

Once inside, we were greeted by the hostess, who was polite and courteous.

The server came within the expected timeframe and welcomed us. She failed to give us her name, but that could have been because she might have been distracted by my first statement, a request to have the balance confirmed on the gift card. She returned after several minutes, apologizing for the delay because she had never performed that operation before, but said indeed the card had the value we expected.

The ordering process was typical, with the efficiency I would have expected. I ordered the beef Delmonico with mashed potatoes. The bison chili piqued my curiosity from my first visit, so I decided to try it as an appetizer. Kathy somewhat surprised me by ordering the short ribs, which only comes in bison, (given our fateful previous experience with the bison steaks,) so I guess the staff member's suggestion at the door worked. She ordered a salad as well.

The bison chili was very good, though I am not sure I could tell whether or not the quality was from the bison, through the usual spiciness of chili. I could only assume it was. Kathy couldn't finish her salad, so she requested a container, which was swiftly brought to her, including an instruction to place the foiled side of the lid towards the food for maximum freshness - a welcome gesture.

This has nothing to do with our meal, but it was interesting to note that two servers arrived at the table next to us asking, "Who gets the prime rib," etc. Everyone at that table was looking about in confusion, because nobody had ordered what these two were serving. Turns out that order was destined for the patrons at an adjacent table, who were patiently watching their food going through the motions. Our food, on the other hand, was placed in front of us by a server who did not speak, although she did place the correct plate in front of each of us without asking who got what. It was unclear whether that was an act of competence or just luck. The food came within a typical timeframe.

My beef Delmonico, though it was tastier than the bison KC steak I had previously, was unremarkable in flavor. Her ribs were just OK, and she told me she prefers the taste of pork over these. We agreed the mashed potatoes were dry. She needed to borrow my knife as the server took away hers with her salad plate - a forgivable error.

A nicely dressed gentleman came around to various tables and asked us and others if our food was "great." We fibbed just a little in our response.

Our server returned, stating she hoped we reserved room, because they have a "killer" strawberry shortcake, (not a word I usually want associated with food,) and it serves two. Normally we choose to find whatever we have at home for dessert, but because this meal was on a gift card, we took her up on her shortcake. We ordered coffee as well.

The dessert came in the expected time, and the coffee was promised "in ten seconds." A short time later, the coffee arrived and, although we were congratulated for having received the first two cups from a fresh pot, she admitted she forgot to ask if we needed cream. I stated I did. The only unexpected delay that evening was for that cream. She returned with a small cup of cream, apologizing for having run out of "those little creamer packs." I found her solution industrious and acceptable, but I pitied future customers, as the night was still young.

The shortcake was very good, and easily served two, as promised.

The server came by about three times over the courses of our meal to determine our level of satisfaction. The "closing" service was typical and efficient. A staff member was available at the door, smiling as she encouraged us to return.


We believed we had a better experience at this restaurant over our second visit. However, even though the staff was courteous and capable, we go to a restaurant for the food, and the food at this location is unremarkable. I believe we get consistent, high quality food at The Outback, Lone Star, and Texas steakhouses in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area at a greater overall value. We agreed that the quality of the food does not justify the costs at this establishment. However, we do remember the bison burgers were very tasty from our original visit, and we agreed we would probably be returning to Ted's Montana Grill, if just for the bison burgers, either for lunch or for dinner.

Here is how we rated this establishment, first mine, and then Kathy's:

Server: B+ and B
Entrees: C and C
Food overall: C and B-
Overall Staff: B+ and A
Atmosphere: B- and A
Value: C and C

A note: I gave the atmosphere a B- because of the music. I "get" that the dining area is supposed to be reminiscent of a '20s Cattleman's Club/Saloon or whatever, (thanks to guidance from the server from our first visit.) But nobody is around from the '20s anymore, so I think that having music that's more neutral but dinable would be better appreciated. Just my two cents.

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