Monday, October 25, 2010

The Element of Surprise at Ted's Bulletin

In the world of food, concretely defined expectations are dangerous. Projections are pretty volatile, too. When we walk into a restaurant with preconceived notions about what we should eat, we're closing ourselves off to whatever possibilities may lie outside the realm of our thought. Now, that's not to say I believe everyone should be completely open-minded; raw meat is still raw meat, after all. But to enter a setting with no knowledge, no preconceived notions can be truly liberating.

The night I first dined at Ted's, I was completely prepared to eat in. But as soon as Elyse arrived home from work, I knew that wasn't going to happen. It had been a rough day at the office -mostly spent on her feet - and the last thing on her mind was what she could make for dinner. Completely understandable. (There may be those among you wondering why I didn't step up in cook myself. I can assure you, my decision not to cook that night had nothing to do with unwillingness and everything to do with wanting to make sure that everyone survived to eat breakfast. Cooking is not my forte.)

So we decided to head over to Capitol Hill and see what might make for a painless dinner. Prior to that night, I'd heard very little about Ted's Bulletin. I knew it was owned and operated by the same people who started Matchbox, and I'd heard a few murmurs about house-made Pop Tarts. Aside from that, I was flying blind. Elyse and I wanted to split something as neither of us were that hungry. And a full rack of ribs seemed like the perfect choice.

Flying blind (no knowledge that Ted's even served ribs) paired with my willingness to just go with it provided the most surprising dining experience I've had in quite some time. The ribs were awesome. The were well-cooked and accompanied by an interestingly tangy sauce, slightly sweet with a mildly spicy aftertaste. They didn't adhere to my aforementioned Rules of Barbecue, but that's beside the point. They were referenced as Kansas City ribs on the menu but did not (by the nature of the recipe) seek to replicate that experience; they were an homage, not a carbon copy. Therein lies the difference, friends.

Paired with the ribs were spot-on sides of gravy fries and mac 'n cheese. The servings were small (we were, after all, sharing a meal meant for one person) but quite tasty. The mac 'n cheese in particular was delightfully layered with pasta, three cheeses, and bread crumbs for added crunch.

To cool off from the heat of the ribs and fries, we decided on the Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Shake. The only hint of skepticism of the night, I wasn't sure how banana (a flavor I do not greatly enjoy) would mesh with peanut butter and chocolate (my favorite flavors on the planet). To my surprise, it was great. Peanut butter and chocolate came through on the initial sip, but hints of banana melded nicely with the finish of every sip.

We finished with a Pop Tart, also delicious. And to think, we almost ate at home. Once again, as someone who blogs about food, I'm not saying judgment of food is a bad thing. But we need to allow ourselves to let go every now and then. What you find out there may surprise you.

P.S. A few weeks later, Elyse and I went back to Ted's to make sure what we experienced the first time around wasn't a fluke. She had grilled cheese and tomato soup. A classic combo, to be certain, but also one that provides significant room for improvisation and expansion. Our waitress suggested she add bacon and tomato to the sandwich to add a little more substance and depth to the flavors. As soon as she took her first bite and spoonful, Elyse lit up like Christmas. She barely said a word until the plate was empty. This is how you know my girlfriend is truly contented with a meal.

As for myself, the braised beef short rib sandwich was totally irresistible. And though I wasn't fully prepared for how rich the dish would be, I still enjoyed every bite. Bravo, Mr. Ted. We'll be back.


  1. The first time I ordered the grilled cheese, I got it with cheddar, and it seemed like the bread was a cheese bread because there was baked cheese in the crust, and I was so impressed. I thought, why haven't I ever made a grilled cheese with cheese bread?!

    The next time, I forgot to specify cheese, and it was American and disgusting! No sign of that cheese bread, which must have just had the cheddar baked onto it in the grill. Anyway the soup was underwhelming both times, so I think Ted's is only good for milkshakes and ambiance.

  2. How can you post on Ted's and not talk about what it's famous for...the adult milkshakes. They're fantastic; a nice alternative to the all too familiar bar scene here in DC. The Baileys Caramel one is def. the best. Give it a go and add an addendum!