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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Look: Ted's Bulletin on 14th

Plaudits: None
Neighborhood: Two locations: Capitol Hill and 14th Street/U Street

The Setup

With a need for dinner up around 14th and U in hand, and a brand-new, sparkling Ted's Bulletin waving its hand at us within eyesight of the intersection, Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas and I headed over to the brand new edition of the Capitol Hill restaurant.

The Vibe

Admission: I haven't yet been to the original version. In fact my basis of comparison here, much like my general standard for the entire restaurant explosion of the 14th Street Corridor, is from being a resident. Over the last nine years of the city, and the last three+ as a resident of the general neighborhood, seeing older run-down shops turn themselves into big-block, mixed-use anchors is altogether startling, exciting, and interesting.

Ted's Bulletin is one of these. For the life of me, I can't remember what used to sit on that block, only that now the ground-level restaurant occupies an incredibly large space a block from its sister restaurant Matchbox. The space itself is apparently larger than the original, the product of a full-service bakery and bar as you enter. The interior decor is like a high speed collision between a diner and a 1920s bar (a la across-the-street Bar Pilar): vintage paneling meets deli letterboards, mustard yellow button-tufted upholstery meets swivel pedestal bar stools and refurbished schoolchairs, a metal tiled ceiling and art deco light fixtures meets painted exposed brick and several projections showing The Wizard of Oz. Beige, the aforementioned yellow, chocolate brown, and black is the palette of choice throughout the restaurant, from the simple bar and bakery upfront, to the main dining area in the back, which consists of a row of counter and kitchen seating, a ring of half-booths, and three rows of booth-style table seating.

As is a new restaurant's wont, service is up-and-down. Our milkshake order is strangely incorrect (strange in the sense that it seems to combine two different milkshakes, rather than just a outright misorder), but our server is fun, knowledgeable, and makes some fine suggestions to guide our dinner.

The Food

The menu at Ted's Bulletin is large and varied, and hews more to the diner side of the things. To wit, breakfast is served all day, lunch and dinner start at 11am, and the pickings (in most ways, thankfully) hedges its bet by being bigger and greasy-spoonier. Texas and I split an Apple Pie milkshake, loaded with a mix of actual apple pie filling and Bailey's. As noted above, our first shake arrives with what appears to be an incredible load of coconut, and our second corrected shake seems bereft of the promised crushed graham cracker, which acts as the crust. Still, the shake is admirably thin, unlike the sludgy, hard-to-slurp milkshakes at other more speed-oriented places.

For our meal, Texas orders the "famous" grilled cheese and tomato soup. Our server helpfully lets us know that while the default is white bread and American, that there are a variety of breads and twelve different cheeses we can sub instead. Moreover, when Texas contemplates adding a side of mac and cheese, our server suggests we just put the mac and cheese on the sandwich itself. What arrives is just that: a mac-and-cheese filled marble rye sandwich bound together by American that's gooey and filling. As for the soup, even with my dislike of tomato soups, even I had to admit that this was delicious, a mild restrained version free from the oversweetness that plagues the Campbell's variety, that was pleasantly chunky and herb-forward.

For my dish, our server narrows my burger debate down to one: the peanut butter bacon burger, which is exactly what it sounds like. My other options had been more traditional (or at least safer), but this was an incredible surprise, the kind of dish that makes you think out loud, "I don't know who decided to combine these things, but it's incredible that it all works." Even a few days later, I can't fully describe what exactly the peanut butter added, only that it felt much the way a strong broth binds together all the components of a soup. Not an everyday sort of meal, but one that merits a strong recommendation.

Full from our dinner but wary of the immense buzz surrounding it, Texas and I got one of Ted's Bulletin's famous homemade pop tarts to go. How much one enjoys it is strongly correlated with how much one likes the sort of cupcake icing that is ubiquitous these days. For us, the filling was great and the crust was good, but the icing was heaped on a little too much for us, and both a little too saccharine and starchy for our liking.

The Verdict

A fun and friendly restaurant that caters to the family-style, and delivers good refined diner-type food. Once it settles in, definitely worth repeat visits, whether for the hangover breakfast or the group dinner.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Suits Scene
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)

Teds Bulletin 14th Street on Urbanspoon

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