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Breaking for lunch and coffee at Tim Hortons

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OGDENSBURG — Tim Hortons, the iconic Canadian fast food chain known for its coffee and doughnuts, has arrived in Ogdensburg.

Here’s a little background for you. The chain was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton. Back then, the fledgling restaurants offered only two products: coffee and doughnuts.

Little by little, “Timmy’s” (as it’s known in Canada) expanded offerings to include muffins, cakes and cookies; chili, soups and sandwiches. In the last decade the chain added additional lunch items as well as cinnamon rolls and hot breakfast sandwiches.

Timmy’s merged with Wendy’s in 1995. That business relation allowed for the expansion of the chain into the U.S., opening locations in cities and towns around the Northeast. The marriage ended on good terms a decade later when Tim Hortons went public on the New York Stock Exchange, divesting themselves from the U.S. hamburger chain.

As of last year, there were 3,355 Tim Hortons across the border and 745 in the states.

In Canada, there are twice as many Tim Hortons outlets as there are McDonald’s, making them the largest food service operator in Canada. They also exceed Starbucks in coffee sales there by 10-1.

Tim Hortons opened late last year on Route 37 in Ogdensburg in the Parkway Express building. It shares the open space with a Parkway convenience store and a Subway restaurant.

Since neither of us had experienced a Timmy’s before, it took us a few minutes to digest the menu on the overhead signs above the counter.

There are classic sandwiches (chicken salad, ham and Swiss, BLT, turkey bacon club), paninis (Tuscan chicken, pesto chicken, ham and cheese) and “wrap snackers” (chicken salad or hot chicken offered ranch, barbecue or chipotle style).

“Hot bowls” are offered too, with your choice of soup, chili or mac and cheese.

To make things even more confusing for us newbies, you can order most any lunch item as a “combo” deal, pairing it with chips, or soup, or soda, or coffee, or a doughnut, or a cookie ....

We made our way through the stanchion maze, past the pastry display case and up to the counter. We placed our order with a friendly young gal who helped us through the menu maze, asking us questions as she was being prompted by her computer touch screen.

She made it all seem pretty simple. We paid for our order, then moved a little further down the counter and got to watch our food being assembled. The food assembly person had some non-computer-prompted questions for us (like “would you like tomatoes on that wrap?”) For a split second, it made us feel special.

With our lunch order bagged and in hand, we seated ourselves in the small but bright dining area shared with Subway.

Unpacking our goodies, we wondered ... do they bag all the orders whether you eat in or take out? It didn’t really matter to us — it was like having a picnic indoors.

The coffee we ordered was excellent — hazelnut latte with skim milk and no sugar — hot and delicious. We were off to a good start.

We sampled a small cardboard container of their hearty vegetable soup. For a soup that was made in a corporate kitchen far away, it was pretty good. The broth had a decent beef flavor, the vegetables weren’t mushy at all, and — the best part — it was served piping hot.

Mac and cheese looked great — gooey, orange-colored cheese and sturdy noodles served hot in a cardboard container — but lacked in the flavor department. We assumed it was made with liquid cheese that comes out of a pump bottle rather than some good quality sharp cheddar.

Chicken pesto panini was interesting. We had the choice of white or wheat bread and chose the latter (we were hoping for ciabatta or foccacia). It was heavy on bread and light on filling — so light that we pulled it apart to check out the contents.

Between the pieces of bread there was a thin film of pesto that had miniscule pieces of chicken and a few flat pieces of chicken about the size of a quarter. That’s it.

And I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s a panini press in the place. I believe they used regular sliced bread purchased with grill marks on them. There’s no way they could have put this flimsy bread in a panini grill without destroying it.

However, their “snack wrappers,” small three-bite miniature wraps, were quite good — fresh and vibrant.

I’m pretty particular about my chicken salad, and I have to say, Timmy’s was very good. Tasty diced chicken and minced celery held together with just enough mayo.

The baby “hot” chicken wrap was equally good, diced chicken and ranch dressing served warm with a leaf of lettuce. We didn’t get the bacon add-on that we paid for ($.79) but we did get extra shredded cheddar ($.50) and free diced tomatoes.

We made a separate trip back to the counter to get some sweets from the pastry case. Our assortment included a Boston cream pie doughnut, one of their famous apple fritters, a glazed cruller and a half-dozen “Timbits,” their name for doughnut holes.

I immediately popped a Timbit into my mouth. Ordinarily I would have inhaled all six, but there was a certain aftertaste that I wasn’t wild about. Same with the fritter and the cruller. They were all reasonably fresh, but the unpleasant aftertaste was quite distracting.

The Boston cream pie donut was very good and fresh, but I’ll take a doughnut from Mr. Rick’s Bakery in Watertown before one from Timmy’s any day of the week.

Lunch for two at Timmy’s, from soup to doughnuts, cost $22.45.

A Tim Horton’s opened on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in 2011. Additional restaurants are slated to open in Raymondville, Morristown and Potsdam.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: wsiebel@wdt.net.



Tim Hortons

Route 37 at Champlain Street

(1111Champlain St.)

Ogdensburg, N.Y.

393-3590



The iconic Canadian chain restaurant known for its coffee and donuts is now open in Ogdensburg.



HOURS: 24 hours a day, seven days a week



OUR PICKS: Hazelnut latte, chicken “snack wrappers”



RATING: 2 forks
out of 5

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