The local supermarkets, perhaps encouraged by Nam Dae Mun, are now offering a more interesting selection of meats.

Buffalo sirloin.

I was curious about bison. Ted’s serves it, as did the now closed Ruby Tuesday. It tends to be tastier than beef, but in the portions shown, a bit expensive. 8 ounces of buffalo steak cost me about $6.80, close to 14 dollars a pound.

I prepped the steak in a traditional way, dry spicing before sealing in a pint bag. This went into the sous-vide pot for four and a half hours at 131 F. The result?

This was the most tender steak I’ve ever prepped by this method. Utterly delicious.

One of my favorite Mark Bittman articles is “For the love of a good burger“, where he details how he likes to cook his burgers. The essence of the technique, as best I understand it, is to use a good but fatty cut of meat, grind your own meat, and then don’t compress your patties. When talking about compression, Bittman shares this bit of wisdom:

The patties should weigh about 6 ounces each: not small, but not huge, either. Handle the meat gently. Make the patties with a light hand, and don’t press on them with a spatula, like a hurried short-order cook.

It’s not exclusive to Mark Bittman either.  In Tony Rosenberg’s article, “A Perfect Burger, Top to Bottom“, he talks about forming the patties and again, there is an emphasis on being gentle when doing so:

Then work gently to make thin patties. If you really pack the burgers (particularly if you’re using leaner beef), they will acquire a dense, meatloaf-like texture. Thin burgers cook quickly and don’t ball up into fat pucks (heat tends to shrink the patties), plus you get a good balance of meat, toppings and bun in each bite. Gently press and stretch the patties, sprinkle them with a little salt, and make your way to the grill.

And in an article based on the advice of Bobby Flay, we see:

To get a nice char on the meat while keeping the inside juicy, cook over high heat, according to Flay, who cautions that you shouldn’t play with the meat while it’s on the grill: Place each patty on the grill (which you should have preheated for 15 to 20 minutes), let it get brown and slightly charred (this will take about 3 minutes), and then flip it. Flip each burger only once or they will start to fall apart. Don’t press on the burger either; this will cause juices to come out of the meat and will cause annoying flare-ups.

I have had in my life, maybe one and a half, maybe two “Bittman” burgers, burgers that were not flattened until the meat was firm and hard. Both times I’ve have had them at Ted’s Montana Grill, once in Cumberland Mall, and the half in Snellville. In each case the meat was almost falling out of the burger, the patty really wasn’t held together with much more than a prayer. But the meat is insanely tender when handled in this way. It’s not a style of burger that everyone likes. My reader Susan doesn’t, and calls them “crumbly”. Personally, I like the idea of hamburger that almost melts in the mouth and is, to my tastes, sublime.

I’ve been in communications with Foodie Buddha on the matter, he of the affable disposition and the nice burger joint tag. But I really want to throw this whole question open to the blogosphere: is there any restaurant in Atlanta that actually serves a good “Bittman” burger? Is there any restaurant anywhere that serves a burger without being pressed to death by short-order cooks? If not, why not? If so, why?

Notes: The blog ToastPoint has an interesting attempt to make a “Bittman” burger at home. Other interesting Bittman burger articles include the “Inside out Lamb Cheeseburger” and “The Real Burger“.  The blog “Eat” has an intriguing article on making a Bittman style lamburger. Checking the WordPress tag “great hamburgers” yields this interesting blog report on Burger Meister in San Francisco from the Meat Meister’s blog. Checking the WordPress tag “the perfect burger” reveals this review, by Dorothy on the Hill, of a place called the Eat Bar, in the Washington D.C. area.

Ted Turner is an Atlanta icon, who married Jane Fonda, and in the process began looking at the world and his fortune a little differently from the typical magnate. He invested in ranch land, and rather than raise sheep or cattle, he has been raising bison, more so than anyone else on Earth. Partly as an outlet for his immense bison herds, he founded a restaurant, Ted’s Montana Grill, which serves bison, among other meats.

There is a Ted’s Montana Grill nestled in the northeast corner of the intersection of Scenic Highway (Highway 124) and Webb Ginn Road. It’s in the same part of the sprawling complex of stores and restaurants that has On the Border, Red Robin, and Doc Greens, and is roughly across Scenic Highway from  Poblano’s Mexican restaurant. It’s a bit in the back, hard to see from Scenic Highway, but trust me it’s there.

The draw for me to Ted’s are the burgers. They can make them with beef, they can make them with chicken, and they can make them with bison. In my experience, bison burgers are a bit more full flavored than beef and worth the small premium you might pay for such a meal. Ted’s isn’t unique in serving bison burgers. The barbecue joint Smoky Bones also dishes up bison burgers, but the closest one of those is in Stonecrest Mall, in Lithonia.

Ted’s will serve up home made pickles (they disappear quickly at our table) and also bread  (these days you have to ask for bread). They also serve up $10 off coupons if you search for them, and when we had a supply of those we were going to Ted’s more often. But it does serve a fine plate of food, and they do so with one thing hard to come by on the edge of the greater Atlanta area: generally good service.

There are a lot of chains whose service suffers when you get further from the center of the Atlanta metro area. This one doesn’t seem to suffer nearly as badly. Waiters are generally to tables quickly. They top off drinks, ask questions about your meal, see that you’re happy, give you another plate of those pickles when your daughter asks. I have to say I like the food here, but it’s the combination of good food, and attention to the little details that have kept me coming back to this restaurant.

Ted's Montana Grill on Urbanspoon