Tim Horton & Frank Pepe

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Beware: when driving back from Cape Cod to New York, be wary of any Canadians or Yalies in your car. In our case, we had Dara (a Canadian) and Amir (a Yalie) both of whom were responsible for thousands of calories consumed against my innocent, food-shirking will. Why must food obsessives force me, a health-nut, to eat doughnuts and pizza when all I want are bags of trail mix and no-fat fruit smoothies? Are you buying any of this? No?

Ok, you’re right, the Canadian and the Yalie were certainly enablers, but I was the catalyst for all the fat we consumed on the drive back. The Canadian started it. Dara spied a sign for Tim Horton’s, which you see in the picture above. I’d recalled a Canadian reader e-mailing me once about Tim Horton’s, saying it’s the Canadian version of Dunkin’ Donuts only much, much better. Dara agreed. “We should go there,” either she said or I said; or maybe we both said it. We’d pulled off the highway anyway because we needed gas and there was Tim Horton’s, where, after the gas, we stopped for a bathroom and a doughnut.

While I used the bathroom, Dara queried the proprietors of Tim Horton’s as to which was the best doughnut. Without hesitation, apparently, they singled out the Maple Dip:

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When I’d returned from the bathroom, Dara had purchased said Maple Dip doughnut which she models here:

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She also models a coffee drink which any doughnut sommelier will tell you is the perfect accompaniment to a doughnut.

Each of us took a bite–Craig, Dara, Amir and myself–and we all nodded approvingly.

“This is a good doughnut,” said Craig.

“Mmmm,” said Amir.

“Tastes like maple,” said Dara.

“I like it,” I concluded.

Did I like it better than a Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut which, I must admit, I am strangely fond of?

Yes, indeed I did; it was cleaner-tasting, more robust, and the icing, while certainly sweet, was not cloying.

“Well done, Canadian!” I declared and back into the car we poured, ready to continue on our journey home.

I’d like to blame Amir, the Yalie, for the stop in New Haven, for the visit to Frank Pepe’s. But it was I, the food-enthusiast, who planted the seed very early on.

“Let’s stop for pizza in New Haven,” I said when we got into the car for the drive back.

Not much of a response.

An hour later I repeated the thought. And then repeated it again. And again and again. Until everyone was so irritated they threw rocks at me and said: “Fine, you idiot, we’ll stop in New Haven for pizza.”

Why was I so eager to stop in New Haven for pizza? Because, as you can read in this article, New Haven is the birthplace of American Pizza.

Enter Ed Levine and Adam Kuban to dispute this or defend this, I’m not sure what they’ll say. I do know that, undoubtedly, New Haven is thought of as a pizza city and any discussion of American Pizza must involve New Haven somewhere in the conversation.

Amir, the Yalie, spent his time at Yale eating lots of pizza. Even though his preference was for Sally’s Apizza, we found that it was closed and so we ended up at the true original: Frank Pepe.

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As I like to do at any new establishment, I went to the bathroom, yet again, and asked Amir to hold my camera. He, rather irresponsibly, took this picture of himself:

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There are two Frank Pepe’s when you go to Frank Pepe; one is the original original (called “The Spot”), the other is the one that looks more like the original even though it’s not the original, and that’s just called Frank Pepe.

We went to “The Spot.”

Both “The Spot” and the non-original original Frank Pepe have a wait; you wait outside, as people sit on benches, until a woman comes outside and says, “Who’s next?” and then shows you inside.

We waited only about 10 minutes (which, for 4 in the afternoon, was a surprising amount of time to wait).

Once inside, Amir led the charge, steered the ship, and ordered a pitcher of birch beer. I’d never had birch beer, so I didn’t know that (1) it tastes like root beer; (2) it’s clear!

Neither, apparently, did Craig:

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It’s also incredibly fresh tasting, which is an unusual quality to find in a soda. If you go to Frank Pepe, you must get the birch beer.

As for the pizza, I hope I don’t get attacked by a bunch of Ivy Leaguers, but all of us (except, maybe, Amir) thought the pizza was just ok. Here’s the “fresh” summer pizza with tomatoes and basil:

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As you can see, it was ENORMOUS. Don’t order a large unless you are planning to fast for three weeks after!

Not only that, but we also ordered a half broccoli (Dara’s pick!) and half sausage and mushroom:

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Don’t get me wrong, the pizza was good, it just wasn’t great. I won’t be dreaming about it when I have pizza dreams. It’s like standard pizza, only the crust is a little thinner, a little chewier; the sausage was fresher, more homemade-tasting. But, all-in-all, something just wasn’t working with this pizza.

“It’s good,” said Craig.

“Bwoccoli,” said Dara, chewing.

“Sally’s is better,” said Amir.

“Hmmmm,” I pondered, chewing.

Ultimately, I was glad we’d stopped in New Haven for pizza; and if you’re ever driving back from Cape Cod to New York, I think you should too. The service is friendly and quirky and the birch beer is, again, notable; and the pizza is so big, you can take the leftovers in the car and feed yourself more pizza for dinner, which is exactly what we did.

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