The wait for a table at Ted’s Bulletin was nearly hour, and all I wanted on that rainy, hung-over Sunday morning was some comfort food. So we waited. And stared at the milkshake machine and the homemade frosted pop tarts behind the retro counter. What is this place? Have I stepped into a 1940s diner? Why is everyone so happy?
I nipped to the restroom to clear my head and nearly ran into a woman who was smiling and gazing at all the old black-and-white photos on the walls of the hallway.
“That’s my dad there,” she said out loud, pointing to a photograph of a young man in sailor’s attire.
“Hmm?” I responded, jiggling the bathroom doorknob. Why, oh why, do big restaurants have single-stall restrooms?
“This is all my family,” she continued, still staring at the walls in amazement, pointing.
Turns out the awestruck woman was Ted’s daughter and the usually-out-of-town sister of Mark and Ty Neal, the brothers who own Ted’s Bulletin, the Matchbox pizza restaurants, and the hot dog spot DC-3. They opened Ted’s in honor of their late dad, who would serve up delish food to whomever happened to come by their house in the 1940s and ‘50s. He was “the cook of the neighborhood,” according to legend.
Mark and Ty eventually came to the hallway to collect their sister, who explained that this is the first time she’s visited the restaurant, and apologized for her emotion. It was a really lovely private exchange between the siblings, who clearly had put their heart and soul—not to mention their family history—into the place. And it made me instantly love it, before I had even sat down with the menu.
The restaurant is decorated just like an upscale diner straight out of the 1940s or ‘50s. All the fabulous Art Deco décor was salvaged from the Philadelphia Civic Center—and it truly is gorgeous. All marble and metal, with oversized wall boards displaying the milkshake flavors. In the small dining room, a big skylight gives the room an airy, open feel. Plus, an antique projector plays old black-and-white flicks on the wall (with subtitles!), just in case your brunch date is boring. Even the menus look like old newspapers. So adorable.
This charming new addition to the strip of restaurants on the Hill’s Barracks Row boasts one big defining factor that sets it apart from the others: the thick, creamy, divine frozen malt goodness that is their milkshakes. They come in a variety of flavors (including caramel macchiato and butter pecan … amazing), and then there’s an entire other menu of spiked shakes, like the Grasshopper, the spiked Thai coffee, or the Mocha Kahlua. Those milkshakes are the crème de la crème of Ted’s Bulletin—a meal unto themselves. It would be totally acceptable (encouraged!) to go there in the evening with your beau, sit at the counter and share a shake.
Here’s the second best thing about Ted’s: Breakfast is served all day. And beyond that satisfying breakfast menu, the rest of the food options look equally satisfying: everything from soups, salads, and sandwiches to supper entrees. The supper entrees look great, too. From homey foods such as meatloaf with Mingo county ketchup glaze to upscale plates like the Rockefeller T-bone steak. “A real American classic joint with a bit of style,” is how the brothers describe Ted’s Bulletin. And I would second that.
For brunch on that rainy Sunday, sadly, most of us strayed from the breakfast menu. Everything else just looked too good (although some at the table could have used the Walk Of Shame Breakfast Burrito)! We did try Nana’s Beer Biscuits and sausage gravy, which was great for a starter to split. Alas, I was craving comfort, so I went for Ted’s Famous grilled cheese and tomato soup, which is served on a dish that is made for it (I must have these soup-and-toast dishes, Ted). The grilled cheese was skimpy on the cheese, but greasy and satisfying enough to dip into the delicious tomato soup.
The burger selection is superbly creative: the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger, the 7 a.m. Breakfast Burger, the Gut Bomb … heh. We went for the Black and Blue, with bacon, Maytag blue cheese, and whole grain mustard on a sesame seed bun. Unfortunately, the burger we got wasn’t as amazing as it read. Ah well, the Reuben sandwich was tasty and toasty. It was everything a Reuben should be, and the bottom wasn’t soggy, which was a plus.
There’s a variety of side dishes to choose from, and they serve them to share. We got the mac and four cheese (delish!) and the brussels sprouts (meh), which was served covered in bacon and blue cheese. For dessert, we took home a homemade pop tart, because how can you not? It tasted like homemade pastry, filled with strawberry gooeyness, covered with a frosted, sprinkled top.
My only bone to pick would be the service, which was erratic and odd. Sometimes they were lovely and on it, sometimes we were forgotten. Also, the fact that you can’t make a reservation irks me, but it’s understandable considering the size of the place (tiny) and the demand. So, with a chocolate milkshake, all is forgiven.
The Bitches say: A. Adorable place and delicious comfort food with heart.
505 8th St SE
Washington D.C., DC 20003