It’s a cozy and friendly casual restaurant featuring a wide selection of outstanding food and beverages. Parking is abundant and free and the location at Collier and Peachtree enviable. Two things make it distinctive in Atlanta’s dining culture: the eclectic menu features buffalo and the restaurant’s name, Ted’s Montana Grill, as in Ted Turner. After a front cover story in the business section of The New York Times, which largely focused on this eatery, the television pioneer’s latest entrepreneurial plunge, there is little doubt the man leads a charmed life.

He also plans and does his homework. There are no accidental successes in today’s restaurant world.

There are several Ted's in the Atlanta area, but what truly attracted me to Ted’s at this location was a quest to identify quality restaurants that were in proximity to the live stage venues, particularly considering that time limitations and convenience must be considered along with quality, service and the like. After chomping down a hideous junk food assemblage of bread and mystery meat to barely make curtain at The Alliance, I decided that all of us needed some direction. After all, an 8 p.m. show that lasts three hours suggests dinner beforehand.

The next day, I saw Ted’s Montana Grill and after reading the Times feature, somehow knew I was on to something promising.
I arrived and entered into what others have described as a turn-of-the-century saloon. The interior was so cozy and warm. There was a Remington replica on a pedestal in the foyer, the lighting was soft but adequate (i.e., you could see across the room) and there was the ambiance of casual but sophisticated dining afforded by a well-designed eatery made of hickory, brass, pressed tin ceiling and photos and art work. Our booth was comfortable and roomy enough to accommodate all those larger Americans we are warned about. And, the acoustic design muted any screaming banshees

My curiosity was focused on the buffalo. Bison was never standard fare in Atlanta and having heard how superior, particularly in comparison to beef, it is, the time for an encounter arrived. Before the arrival of my eight-ounce bison tenderloin filet, the delightful manager, Karem Santandreu suggested samplers of Ted’s potato soup and chili made with beef and bison. I could have ended the meal after finishing these and left supremely satisfied. But, the entrees were just ahead.

Understandably, bison dominates Ted’s menu and the choices are interesting and appetizing. The reasonably priced lunch menu has attractive specials while the dinner menu offers printed specials with a selection that includes one beef tenderloin and cedar plank steelhead.

The wines, twenty in all, are all domestic and are, save the Opus One, available by the glass. I had the Bogle Petite Sirah based on the advice of San Francisco attorney and noted wine critic Steve Arnold, who knows his wine and his bison. I agreed after washing down my first bite of bison, a medium rare tenderloin filet. Petite Sirah is relatively unknown in the area but is available and is a real sleeper. Priced right, it is a red meat lover’s best companion. Ted’s wines are all very affordable and reflect some care in choices by management.

In addition, there are American and imported beer and one of the best offerings of soft drinks and specialty beverages like cherry lemonade and root beer float. Ted’s margarita is offered, and it is a little different, being made with Chardonnay rather than Tequila. Ted has always been against the grain but ahead of the pack.

Each day features a different soup along with a “Blue Plate Special,” consisting of bison and beef meatloaf, barbeque bison short ribs and fried chicken. There are burgers galore with a choice between beef and bison plus an equal amount of chicken, all offered according to what you want on them. Dessert isn’t elaborate, but adequate and reminiscent of small town diner fare. I had Turner Ranch Tapioca Pudding with a fresh baked Snicker Doodle “Scratch” cookie and was stuffed.

I can generally “read” a restaurant crowd and thus usually predict longevity with some accuracy. On a quiet Tuesday evening, sitting around me was a mom with her son and daughter eating and thoroughly enjoying each other, while at another table four businessmen were quaffing wine along with bites of bison, garlic mashed potatoes and Caesar salad. The room was mixed with a fine cross-section of Midtown and the bar was full. I could converse without shouting and some theme-relevant Gene Autry and Sons of the Pioneers standards were on the sound system.

An evening at Ted’s Montana Grill is memorable for outstanding food and service rarely seen in casual restaurants these days. The wait staff is trained and standards across the board are very high. There is even a reason to eat bison beyond the outstanding flavor and texture. Ted Turner literally created a broadened consumer appetite for this healthful red meat. Without this effort and its growing success, bison would someday again be faced with extinction.

Ted’s Montana Grill is a midtown culinary heaven and a first-class restaurant addition for Atlanta.

Editor’s Note: Ted’s Montana Grill, in addition to being within minutes of The Alliance Theatre, is convenient to the 14th Street Playhouse, Ansley Park Playhouse, Theatre Gael, Peachtree Playhouse and Actor’s Express. Service is quick and the staff is mindful of theater times.

Follow the arrow to Doc's story about Sweet Grass Dairies and their magnificent cheeses

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This arrow will take you to Doc's article about Karen Bremer and the two fine restaurants which she owns in Atlanta: The City Grill and Dailey's.

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