At Ted’s Bulletin on 14th Street, American comfort food reigns


Old ticket windows from the Philadelphia Civic Center have found a home at the new Ted’s Bulletin location on 14th Street NW. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)
November 19, 2013

The latest Ted’s Bulletin, introduced in August, finds itself on 14th Street NW and follows the same recipe as the original on Capitol Hill: Customers can watch “Pop Tarts” being made up front, coast into a boozy milkshake at one of the friendliest bars around and take in an old movie from their perch in the boisterous, brick-bound dining room beyond.

Ted’s menu doesn’t require an aficionado’s dictionary to decode; American comfort food reigns supreme. Expect tender and juicy meatloaf: two slabs of ground beef brushed with a sweet ketchup glaze. Anticipate three-cheese lasagna with garlic toast, and wood-smoked ribs sauced a la Savannah or Kansas City (or both). This is a have-it-your-way kind of kitchen that makes breakfast possible throughout the day and serves everything as though you were a linebacker.

“Daunting, isn’t it?” our chipper server says as he deposits a platter of buttermilk country-fried steak on the table, a shiny knife jutting out from beneath the food. What appears to be a continent of thinly sliced beef comes cloaked in an ocean of peppery white gravy. The eye-popper comes with a choice of two sides: in this instance, a forest of Brussels sprouts tangy with blue cheese and a scoop of Mom-worthy mashed potatoes.

Some dishes are just . . . big. For all its supporting ingredients — strawberries, goat cheese, slivered almonds, orange slices, poppy seed dressing — the “citrus” salad is lackluster eating. Ted’s hamburger is a major letdown, too. My patty arrived tasteless and woefully undercooked, with french fries that a server said were house-made but that smacked of a factory kitchen.

The sleeper of the lot: gumbo, meaty with chicken and coins of andouille, and both zesty and tangy from spoonful to spoonful. Grilled corn bread turns the bowl into a bonanza.

Dressed like Ted’s No. 1 with art deco grillwork and light fixtures from the old Philadelphia Civic Center, the younger (and more spacious) Ted’s shares an unfortunate drawback with its sibling.

Bring earplugs if you hate noise.

1818 14th St. NW. 202-265-8337. tedsbulletin14thstreet.com. “Supper” main courses, $14.29 to $24.99.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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