click to enlarge bartlettimage-teak_maitland-7143.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Teak Neighborhood Grill’s Maitland outpost left us pining 

Teaks and valleys

I've been asked on more than one occasion (twice, I think) about the relationship between all the Teaks and RusTeaks around town, so let's get that out of the way: Brian Buttner and Jonathan Canonaco, a couple of Culinary Institute of America grads, opened the first Teak Neighborhood Grill in MetroWest back in 2010. Then they opened the very gastropubby RusTeak in 2012, after which RusTeak College Park soon followed in 2014. Also in 2014, Buttner and Canonaco sold the original Teak Neighborhood Grill to Chris Meyer and Jon Proechel. Got it? (Oh, one more tidbit to digest: Buttner and Canonaco also run the Stubborn Mule.)

Now then, I quite enjoyed the burgers, beer, and all-American cheer of the Meyer/Proechel-era Teak and said so on these very pages in November of last year. Naturally, I expected more of the same at the recently opened Teak Neighborhood Grill in Maitland. It's in the old RanGetsu space and, like the slick Japanese resto it supplanted, it's huge. Sure, it's been given a thorough make-under for the burger-loving, beer-guzzling, sportsballs-watching crowd (there's, like, a thousand TVs inside), but the sizable outdoor space, a good portion of which is covered, offers a somewhat less raucous atmo. The menus in MetroWest and Maitland are identical but execution, we soon came to learn, wasn't.

A pair of pan-seared crab cakes ($12) we ordered resembled scallops at first, so wee they were in cylindrical stature. The filler-heavy pucks completely fell apart after cutting into them, but it's not like our other starter of choice – Thai chili chicken wings ($10 for 8; $13 for 12) – held up any better, at least not to scrutiny. The meat on the so-so wings and drumsticks was dry to the bone, and the sauce proved more cloying than racy.

But, really, burgers were our focus and first up was the "Imperial Trooper" ($12) served on a brioche bun with mozzarella, tomato, and spring mix that my dining comrade ordered medium-well. The patty seemed like it had been on the receiving end of a Stormtrooper's blaster rifle – it was cooked to a very well-done, but the combination of sour cream-chive sauce and a Guinness stout glaze was, mmm, done well. No complaints with a side of fat onion rings; likewise with other sides like chili cheese fries, sweet potato tots and coleslaw.

Overcooked meat plagued two other burgers, however – a sweet and meaty half-pound cronut burger ($13) with maple-pepper bacon, smoked Gouda and over-medium egg, and the "Drunken Monk" ($13). Both were ordered medium; both came out well-done. The latter fused Angry Orchard onion jam with roasted cherry tomatoes, smoked maple bacon, herb mayo and provolone cheese. The crunch of potato chips and melted white cheddar inside the pretzel bun gave the burger some major heft, though nowhere near the sheer ridiculousness of the "Teak Challenge." That's offered for a reasonable $45, considering it's crammed with two pounds of beef, 27 slices of cheese, 24 slices of smoked bacon and God knows what else. Finishing it will likely get your mug on a wall or some such thing.

At the other end of the spectrum, the vegetarian "Eggplanter" ($10) was a textural fail. For one, the breaded eggplant wasn't crispy, but mushy. Plop breaded mushy eggplant, melted mozzarella and garlic-cilantro sauce in a brioche bun and, well, you'll likely just move on to dessert. Allow me to suggest a sharable warm chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream ($6).

Perhaps the most telling difference between the two Teaks is the manner in which we exited. Thoroughly satiated, we lumbered out of Teak MetroWest; in Maitland, we were left pining for something better.

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