You can’t miss Ted’s Restaurant. It is located at 328 12th Street South with the large, original “Ted’s Cafeteria Restaurant” sign on the corner. Recent updates to the interior make lunching here more appealing. But it is not ambience that draws the crowds. We go to Ted’s for a taste of what busy Southerners miss—but have no time to cook—fresh meat and three, home style fare.
Ted’s Restaurant is conveniently located near UAB and close to downtown and Southside businesses. There is a large parking lot where quick and free parking alongside the building allows people to park, eat lunch and go in 30 minutes. Entering through the side door puts you right in line for the cafeteria-style service. After choosing from the buffet items Ted’s staff provides your tray and allows you to choose your seat: booth, table or on one of the bar’s chrome barstools. Much like a small town diner, the patrons know each other and liven their meals by talking politics, football, and religion. And they appreciate the recent remodeling, which upgraded the lighting and added Greek style columns that separate the artwork. The columns hint at the heritage of Tasos Touloupis, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Beba.
Touloupis and Beba’s background and education would seemingly have little chance of leading them together as restaurateurs of their family owned, Southern style cafeteria. Touloupis hometown is Thessaloniki, Greece and Beba is Greek Bahamian from Freeport, Bahamas. He holds a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama, and she graduated from UAB with a degree in psychology. Yet Touloupis interest in culinary was evident by age 16 when he took a restaurant course. And by 19-years-old, he was a personal server to the Prime Minister of Greece. This stint was followed by many years of working in restaurants and country club hospitality before the couple bought Ted’s—a 28-year-old restaurant at that time—in 2000.
Weekday lunches bring in the regulars. On Wednesdays it is the meatloaf they crave. Thursdays’ patrons come for the beef tips and rice. Their famous fried chicken is available more than once a week. In addition to lunch, Ted’s also serves breakfast. And they will bring Ted’s to you with their catering business. No event is too large or too small. For Galas, fundraisers, weddings, parties and business meetings they cook for hundreds of people. And they “cater” to one just as well, if you call in or order take out online on their new website at TedsBirmingham.com.
Touloupis kept the original recipes of “Mr. Ted” and has since enhanced them and added new ones. The Southern fare is accented with specialty Greek offerings, such as an enormous Greek Salad, Greek Chicken and Souvlaki—Boston Butt on a skewer. But today we stick to Southern style and save the Greek influences for next time.
Today’s lineup-of meats include fried chicken, which we select. Veggies of squash casserole, turnip greens, new
potatoes, fresh corn, and okra are chosen along with cornbread muffins and iced tea. The chicken breast and wings are golden brown, cooked with skins on. This keeps the meat juicy and flavor filled on the inside and crisp on the outside. So good that an extra order of chicken is made and brought to the table. Each bite of the fresh, country veggies take me back to my Blount County roots when my grandmother would cook fresh vegetables from her garden for lunch. The okra’s batter is light and adheres to each piece with no air pocket in between. The greens, corn and potatoes speak their freshness in each bite. But my favorite is the squash casserole. It is not your traditional one with the squash cooked to death and topped with cracker crumbs. It has large fresh chunks of squash that are cooked tender in lovely layers of creamy goodness.
I am very particular about cornbread. Few Southern chefs please me. Ted’s cornbread does! The muffin is hearty in size, cooked to a light yellow-gold, and is served hot. A dollop of butter quickly melts into its crumbly texture, bringing forth the fresh corn flavors.
For dessert we have the Banana Pudding and Blackberry Cobbler, which are difficult to resist as they line the buffet at eye level. Sweet tooth palates will love the pudding, which is made with no powdered boxes. And the blackberry cobbler is a tasty dish with a nice ratio of blackberries and crust. Tried and true since 1973, Ted’s makes us feel at home and satisfies our Southern appetites with comforting cuisine.
magazine, January 2012.