Tim Horton & Frank Pepe

September 16, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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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.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Northeast, Restaurant Reviews, The Rest of the U.S.

  • David Thomas

    Your problem, as with all bad experiences at restaurants with great food, is that you failed at ordering. You should have ignored the vegetarians and hippies in your traveling party and ordered a white clam pizza. I haven’t eaten one in 3 years and can still taste the last one. The last one I ate was so good that we ordered a large at 9 at night after consuming 2 lb lobsters (we were driving from Maine to DC and stopped in New Haven at a friend’s place to eat lobsters) and 2 of us still ate half of it.

  • http://carmencooks.wordpress.com Carmen

    I agree with David – you didn’t order the clam pizza!

  • Allison

    Oh Adam, You missed the absolute best part of Tim Horton’s: The Honey Cruller donut! It has about 4 times the amount of fat and calories as any other pastery in the joint, but it’s light as air and melts in your mouth. As it only takes 3 seconds to ingest, it gives me reason to always buy 2! I’m glad you could enjoy a little bit of Canadiana.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Frank Pepe’s plain cheese pie and clam pie are the must haves. Too many toppings on the Pepe’s pizza takes away from its trancendent qualities.

  • http://www.lunchboxr.com Blim

    I have to second the opinion that this was a case of ordering failure. To not get the clam pie is to defeat the purpose of the trek out to New Haven.

  • Amie

    Amir is hot “__”

  • sqtip

    The original Pepes is the other one actually. We’ve stopped at Pepe’s for years driving between NY and Rhode Island, often waiting in line for up to 3 hours just to have pizza. My dad went to Yale in the 50′s and I am pretty sure he knows which one is the first Pepe’s on Wooster St. Here’s the link: http://www.pepespizzeria.com/

    Admittedly, the last time I went in 2003, it wasn’t what it used to be. But in the 80′s it was a treat that we begged for all the way home.

  • Nancy

    Although I graduated from Yale many years ago, I often return for pizza. For me, Pepes always disappoints. I think Modern is superior.

  • sqtip

    The original Pepes is the other one actually. We’ve stopped at Pepe’s for years driving between NY and Rhode Island, often waiting in line for up to 3 hours just to have pizza. My dad went to Yale in the 50′s and I am pretty sure he knows which one is the first Pepe’s on Wooster St. Here’s the link: http://www.pepespizzeria.com/

    Admittedly, the last time I went in 2003, it wasn’t what it used to be. But in the 80′s it was a treat that we begged for all the way home.

  • sqtip

    The original Pepes is the other one actually. We’ve stopped at Pepe’s for years driving between NY and Rhode Island, often waiting in line for up to 3 hours just to have pizza. My dad went to Yale in the 50′s and I am pretty sure he knows which one is the first Pepe’s on Wooster St. Here’s the link: http://www.pepespizzeria.com/

    Admittedly, the last time I went in 2003, it wasn’t what it used to be. But in the 80′s it was a treat that we begged for all the way home.

  • http://www.them-apples.co.uk rich

    Broccoli? On a pizza?

    That’s a bit weird, or is that just me.

  • http://thedrunkblog.com/blog/ The Drunken Blogger

    I never heard of clear birch beer before, that’s pretty interesting! I bet many a person has played a joke offering some “sprite” to a friend :)

  • Virginia Scharff

    I am living in New Haven these days, and had an eggplant, artichoke and onion pizza at Modern recently. It rocked. Also, no wait for takeout. I’m dying to try the Clams Casino pizza there.

    I have also tried the pizza at Bar, and it was delish. But I am a native of St. Louis and I still think St. Louis pizza beats New Haven.

  • Virginia

    I am living in New Haven these days, and had an eggplant, artichoke and onion pizza at Modern recently. It rocked. Also, no wait for takeout. I’m dying to try the Clams Casino pizza there.

    I have also tried the pizza at Bar, and it was delish. But I am a native of St. Louis and I still think St. Louis pizza beats New Haven.

  • kristina

    Hey, there’s a new website about to launch called Behind the Burner: it features exclusive tips on products and cooking techniques, as well as video demonstrations with New York City’s best chefs! Be sure to check out the website, http://www.behindtheburner.com, where you can sign up for email updates and more info.

  • craig

    Yay for Tim Horton’s!!! You should have tried the Sour Creme Glazed donuts! By far the best. I really miss the frequent visits to Tim’s not living in Canada anymore…

  • Lawrence

    Adam!

    Way to not order the white clam pizza at Pepe’s!! D’oh!!

  • Tim

    Hmm,

    Tim Horton’s was better when it wasn’t owned by Wendys, and when they actually made their donuts fresh at (most) locations.

    Now, they’re all flash-frozen then baked at the stores – they often end up tasting kind of stale by the time you get to eat them.

    Makes me sad for the days when their boxes looked like their stores in wintertime, and they had to force the lid closed due to how big the apple fritters used to be.

    /cry

  • Julia O.

    Adam, Adam, Adam, forget those 4-year tourists known as Yalies — it’s the townies you don’t want to hear from when you’re talking smack about their pizza! People like me, whose body mass is 10% Sally’s, 5% Modern and 2% Pepes.

    Some of your commenters have hinted at the solution to your mediocre experience: Modern has risen in the ranks and provides consistently killer pie. Go to Sally’s and get a plain — that’s no mozz, just sauce and grated cheese. And no more broccoli. Pepe’s has always been my #3. For some reason, I find The Spot marginally better. It’s 2 and a half. Definitely go back to the Elm City, and eat more pie — it’ll grow on you.

    The idea that there’s a best is silly — as is the idea that there was truly a first. The Spot and Pepe’s are in the same parking lot, owned by the same people . . . and Sally Consiglio was a relative. The competition is in the heads of the fans.

    For truly bad pizza? Come to my adopted city of Boston ;-)

  • Dennis

    Seconding the above: Amir failed you when he let you order silly pizzas. Plain, clam or chicken pizza (my favorite!) is the way to go. And you really should do a side-by-side comparison of Sally’s and Pepe’s. You won’t settle anything, but it’ll be fun.

    When you return to the Elm City to rectify your error, you must also have a cheeseburger at Louis’ Lunch. And write about it.

  • CC

    It’s the white clam pie that you have ordered, Adam. Truly life-changing. No, I’m serious. Life-changing.

  • CC

    It’s the white clam pie that you have ordered, Adam. Truly life-changing. No, I’m serious. Life-changing.

  • Sandro

    Birch beer was “incredibly fresh tasting?” It’s soda, guy! Is there anything you don’t like when you’re on a travelin’ high?

  • http://freshcrackedpepper.com/ Mark B.

    As a Canadian, I’ll say that although Tim’s (that’s what we call it) has good donuts, their coffee stinks. It’s really terrible and I’d advise anyone who goes there for the first time… don’t drink the coffee.

  • KBT

    I have yet to find a Canadian who doesn’t like Tim Horton’s; this leads me to believe that Canadians are born without taste buds or simply without taste. Hard cold rolls for sandwiches, soups that are more filler/starch than identifiable ingredients, oily coffee drinks that must be made from syrups or chemical-laden mixes, and heavy, falsely advertised “Fresh All Day” doughnuts that are made at 3am and refrigerated for 24hrs. Bon apetit, Canada.

  • John

    I agree with everyone else who has talked up Pepe’s clam pizza — it’s worth making a special trip back to New Haven just to order correctly there. :)

  • John

    And for non-clam pizza, Sally’s IS better…

  • Julia O.

    Ok, ok — I am a rabid Sally’s loyalist, I was just trying to sound fair. John’s right, it’s the best.

    Dennis has a good point, too, one I almost made myself but I’m trying to be less bossy lately . . . please go back for the hamburger at Louis Lunch. There’s a whole central CT steamed burger thing (Meriden, Manchester) if you get really into it — probably the Sterns have written about it.

    Love your blog, glad you made it to NH at all.

  • cybercita

    didn’t jane and michael stern meet at yale and fall in love over a white clam pizza?

    i love tim hortons butter tarts! mini pecan pies without the nuts, just the goo. heaven.

  • WoosterStreetDiaspora

    I’ve never written a comment anywhere ever on the web. However, the fact that you did not have the white clam pizza is a so unfortunate that I had to write. This is the whole point of Pepe’s. I no longer live in Connecticut and I still miss this pizza. It is made with fresh shucked clams, garlic, pecorino and olive oil and nothing more.

  • david

    I went to Pepe’s a few months ago and found that it had gone WAY downhill…It was once very much the eqal of Sally’s — maybe they expanded & sacrificed quality? The slices were soggy and the crust unpleasantly doughy — the fabulous orangey fried cheese/sauce congealment was no more. They were OUT of clams the night i went, which distressed me — but maybe clam is still ok?

    In any case I can vouch for sally’s if you want the plain pie, they’ve got the goods all these years later.

  • Alec Smart

    Dude,

    Did anyone ever tell you about Tim Horton ? Was a pro hockey player in the 60′s and early 70′s.Played for Toronto and Buffalo Sabres. Died tragically in a car crash in 73.

    Started the business with a cop as his partner and the chain really flourished in the 80′s and nineties, when Wendy’s bought them out.

    Now the second largest restaurant chain in Canada behind Mickee Dees.

    Horton’s coffee makes Dunkin Donuts coffee taste like dishwater and the donuts especially the sour cream glazed are good.

    Are you allowed into Canada Adam ?

  • uter

    I agree with some of the readers above who question the quality of Tim Hortons. The donuts are craptacular (stale, dry from lack of moisture) and the selection is fairly limited at each location. The coffee is average for the price I suppose. There is no good breakfast items. All in all, Dunkin Donuts is pretty darn good and I had a taste of it when travelling in the States.

  • uter

    I agree with some of the readers above who question the quality of Tim Hortons. The donuts are craptacular (stale, dry from lack of moisture) and the selection is fairly limited at each location. The coffee is average for the price I suppose. There is no good breakfast items. All in all, Dunkin Donuts is pretty darn good and I had a taste of it when travelling in the States.

  • uter

    I agree with some of the readers above who question the quality of Tim Hortons. The donuts are craptacular (stale, dry from lack of moisture) and the selection is fairly limited at each location. The coffee is average for the price I suppose. There is no good breakfast items. All in all, Dunkin Donuts is pretty darn good and I had a taste of it when travelling in the States.