Reported by John Lehndorff:
I was a Tim Horton’s virgin until this past weekend. I’d been intimate with Dunkin Donuts and had a mercifully brief fling with Krispy Kreme, but I’d never had a Tim’s, as everyone called it when I found myself in Lacombe, Alberta for a weekend celebration of my niece Azalea’s college graduation. I too graduated from a Canadian university, McGill, some many years ago in the last century but if there was a Tim Horton’s in Montreal at the time I was unaware of it or was too distracted by the smoked meat sandwiches and St. Lawrence Street bialys and Brador. Tim Horton’s is making a big splash now as it moves into the U.S. going head-to-head with Dunkin.
My first impression upon entering Tim’s was that it’s actually a cross between Dunkin and McDonald’s with a rather limited number of doughnut varieties plus soups, sandwiches and salads and breakfast sandwiches along with coffee and oversweetened, overcreamed ice coffee drinks. The folks in the long line – and it looked like the whole town – told me how much they loved the place and that it was like the community’s collective dining room table.
They also praised the coffee – I found it to be milder than Dunkins famous brew and similar to McDonalds but frankly all three cups are equally lame and lackluster if you actually love good coffee. Starbucks is certainly an improvement of any of them although they still insist on over-roasting their beans.
I did enjoy the doughnuts – the Canadian Maple with glaze and cream filling was a delight. The barely fried texture of the dough was satisfying – an definite improvement over Dunkins yeasted doughnuts and light-years ahead of KK’s which are nothing more than sugary air. I’d put it on par with Lamar’s yeasteds. However, Tim’s cake doughnuts lacked density and character (i.e., dunkability) and are not in the same league as Dunkins.
The wider range of the Tim’s menu may make the chain a success in the U.S. Thye need to change one disturbing aspect of their service: at least at the Tim Horton’s I visited the people behind the counter had control of the cream and sweeteners – you had to tell them how much of what you wanted in your cup and it never was quite perfect. That sort of thing might pass muster over the border to the north but we Americans don’t want any foreign power with their iron fist controlling our coffee condiments. Other than that, I had a lovely experience in my first visit to Tim Horton’s.
John Lehndorff is a Boulder, Co.-based food trend researcher, food writer and consultant. He is a former newspaper food editor and restaurant critic, author of a restaurant guide book, and executive director of the American Pie Council.
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