Like most other hot-dog-loving Western New Yorkers, we are big fans of Ted's. The coupons in the Sunday newspaper lure us into the charcoal-scented sanctuary a few times a month. So when Theodore's on the Island opened on Grand Island, John, Pat, John and I were anxious to check it out.
By now you know that while the founder of Ted's was the grandfather of the owner and operator of Theodore's, as its place mats clearly state, "Theodore's is not affiliated with Ted's Hot Dogs."
We found some things at Theodore's identical to Ted's, right down to the smooth way the grill workers insert the tines of a fork into the folds of each napkin to pull it toward them. Some things are different -- depending on your taste, possibly not as good, or possibly just different.
The menu is very similar. Both places serve charcoal-grilled Sahlen's hot dogs, footlongs and all-beef dogs, Polish and Italian sausage, burgers and chicken sandwiches, all on fresh Costanzo rolls, fries, onion rings and milkshakes. Clearly Theodore knows what has worked since 1927 for Ted.
The decor is different from Ted's, with chairs and tables replacing the booths, and a back room off to one side that was the site of a get-together while we were there. But the way you place your order -- grilled meat first, then drinks, then fries or rings, then chili or cheese -- is very familiar, and the square stacks of cold condiments look identical.
Theodore's offers three kinds of chicken breast sandwiches, each $3.95. In addition to the plain grilled chicken, it has "The World Famous Kilroy," seasoned with a dry rub, and a BBQ chicken sandwich marinated in traditional barbecue sauce.
We tried the Kilroy, hoping it would not be tastebuds-searingly spicy. It wasn't, although the rub added a lot of flavor, with notes of paprika, sage and a dusting of cayenne. The chicken breast, despite being at least partially precooked before it was put on the grill, was juicy and good.
The Italian sausage link ($3.65), offered with cooked peppers and onions, was tender and grilled to perfection. The regular hot dog ($2.20) was perfect with its outer skin slightly charred by the grill, and the all-beef dog ($3.50) was larger and made with a slightly different combination of meat and spices.
The fries ($1.70) and onion rings ($2.90) are the most significant difference. Theodore's offers an order of "frings," a combination of fries and rings, for $2.30. That is a nice option when you want some of each.
The fries are crinkle-cut and reminded us of the huge bags of frozen fries sold in grocery stores. The taste was fine, but the texture didn't equal the matchstick-cut variety at Ted's. Theodore's onion rings were dipped in a sturdier batter than the delicate, easily shattered shell that makes the soft onion slices at Ted's so delicious.
Theodore's is planning to open another restaurant on Bailey Avenue in Amherst.
THEODORE'S ON THE ISLAND
3 pennies (out of four)
"Close but not identical."
WHERE: 1752 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes