7018 Transit Rd, Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: Ted's Hot Dogs
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Amherst Hot Dogs Tonawanda Williamsville
"Thanks mostly to the continued quality of the Ted's experience, history has forgotten virtually all of the area's other hot dog stands; its grilling has put other versions to shame."
For decades, Ted's Hot Dogs has been Buffalo's quintessential hot dog parlor: a place to get the area's best-tasting charcoal-grilled dogs all year long. The good news is that Ted's locations are now more numerous than ever, covering all of Western New York's major suburbs from Orchard Park to Lockport, each with the same straightforward menu of hot dogs, onion rings, sausages, and soft drinks. Unfortunately, long-time visitors will find that Ted's isn't exactly the same place it once was - its charms are relatively easy to duplicate on a backyard grill - though it still offers locals a winter or rainy day opportunity to enjoy quality grilling, as well as giving out-of-towners an inexpensive way to experience the famous Sahlen's hot dogs that the city has been known for. Our article on Buffalo hot dogs discusses the general hot dog topic in greater depth; this review focuses on Ted's.
The Story: For over 90 years, Ted's has been selling hot dogs in some way or another - first from a horse-drawn cart, then from a converted tool shed, and later in full-fledged restaurants. The early stores touted Jumbo Red Hots, chili sauce-coated dogs, but over time, the restaurant signage focused increasingly on Jumbo Hot Dogs, and eventually just on Charcoal-Broiled Hot Dogs. Thanks mostly to the continued quality of the Ted's experience, history has forgotten virtually all of the area's other hot dog stands, and as Ted's has continued to expand, its grilling paradigm has continued to put boiled, microwaved, and heat lamp-cooked versions to shame. As hot dog snobs, fans of flame-grilled dogs rightfully scoff at these lesser options, despite the fact that they continue to be popular outside Western New York.
Highs: The superstar of the Ted's menu is in our view an extra-large foot long Sahlen hot dog, which is comparatively hard to find in local stores. It always seems like it's on the verge of splitting in half when it's cooked on Ted's grill, but the thrill of getting one, decked out with whatever your favorite toppings may be, is worth the potential of an awkward split.
Condiments at Ted's are simple, but always tasty. Sweet relish, mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, diced onions, tomatoes, peppers and pickles are amongst the standard options, with chili and cheese as premium extras. Fine chicken and fish sandwiches are available, as are hamburgers, and both Italian and Polish Sausages - the latter two, local favorites. We'd strongly recommend washing whatever you order down with a cup or two of loganberry, but there are more common soft drinks and milkshakes as options, too. A loganberry milk shake is on the menu, substantially creamy with a light dose of the famous juice.
One easy way to visit Ted's is its Food Court location at the Walden Galleria Mall. While its other suburban locations are often scattered a mile or two away from other things you might be doing, a visit to this Cheektowaga location offers the appeal of a good local meal when you're shopping or waiting to see a movie. You can even pair a foot long with an Orange Julius from a nearby vendor, a combo meal we've tried and enjoyed. Updated 2009: Ted's has shuttered the Galleria location, blaming an increase in the mall's rent for the decision.
Lows: Ted's famous grilling, which renders Sahlen's hot dogs beautifully burnt on the outside, no longer seems to be done with the same spirit as it was decades ago. You can (and probably should) ask for your dog to be grilled a little longer to get the old crispy texture, and ask for the bun to receive a little toasting attention, too; once you've seen it done in the restaurant, you may well find the experience easy to duplicate or improve upon at home. Similarly, while the fries are filled with real potato goodness, the onion rings are only okay, and Ted's formerly Dairy Queen-esque selection of desserts has narrowed a little. What used to be a one-stop-meal-shop now can better be achieved with hot foods at Ted's and a follow-up at Anderson's or DQ. Finally, there's each restaurant's dining room, which harkens back to days when fast food restaurants designed tables and chairs to make you want to leave rather than stick around. They look like they did 20 or 30 years ago, and quite possibly haven't been updated since they were originally installed.
The Verdict: In our view, though Ted's is unquestionably a local institution, it could benefit from a little back-to-roots attention to grilling, a few more menu options - including new desserts - and quite possibly some either modern or really retro cosmetic touches. Having said that, if you don't have access to a grill and want a filling summertime meal, you'll find Ted's dogs, sausages, fries and drinks to be memorably good, and likely worthy of a return visit. Visitors from outside the area have an even higher chance of being impressed by the meat, the grill, and the prices.