Two days before its official Thursday opening, the much-hyped bakery chain Tim Hortons was already doling out coffee and doughnuts to eager Canadaphiles at the Mall of America.
On Tuesday, the 52-year-old institution from across our northern border inspired equal parts passion in Canadian native transplants to Minnesota and confusion among those born and bred here.
The one thing most customers could agree on, however, was that they had no idea who Tim Horton was.
So, for our readers who aren’t yet familiar with the cult snack shop, here’s a primer.
Who is Tim Horton?
What is Tim Hortons?
A familiar sight at Canada gas stations, Tim Hortons is a beloved bakery known for its doughnuts and creamy, sugary coffee drinks. Founded in 1964, the company had a Hopkins outpost for a few years in the 1990s. In 2014, Burger King acquired the chain and vowed to bring it back to the States.
How excited are local Canadians?
Very. “This is a dream,” said Montreal native Chris Mangione, who has lived in the U.S. for 16 years and drove out to the mall on his lunch break just to get a box of the chain’s famed doughnut holes. His first bite “brought back a flood of memories” of childhood visits with his grandparents. University of Minnesota student Katharine Young took a lengthy light rail ride to pick up a box of chocolate dip doughnuts and an assortment of doughnut holes. She’s a South Dakota native who grew up with Canadian parents; they’ve already put in orders for her to bring some back home for Thanksgiving. “It’s just comfort food,” she said.
How Canadian is it?
Aside from the maple dip doughnut (it’s a regular yeasted doughnut with a maple glaze), there’s nothing particularly Canadian about the joint. Though we did count seven flannel-shirt-wearing customers in an hour. Other unique features: You don’t add your own milk and sugar to your coffee. Either the cashiers do, or a gas station-style machine will squirt out the ever popular sugar bomb of a French vanilla cappuccino.
What the heck are Timbits?
The insufferably named bite-size doughnut holes are basically “Munchkins” (to those who grew up near a Dunkin’ Donuts). There are seven flavors, including an impressive jelly-filled ball and a crunchy glazed blueberry sour cream bite.
Is it any good?
Most customers we spoke with agreed the food is about average. “I wouldn’t say it’s spectacular,” said Dawn Gross of Prior Lake about her maple dip. “We wouldn’t come to the mall to go here.”
Gale and Paul Wahlstrom of Plymouth, however, admired the double-chocolate doughnuts. “They are the way doughnuts are supposed to be,” Gale said. “Crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.”
Nikki Ahlgren of Lakeville “really prefers Dunkin’ Donuts,” she said, “but they’re taking too long to come to the Twin Cities.”
Mangione — who said if there was a Mount Rushmore of Canada, “Tim Horton would get two spots” — didn’t exactly sell us on the taste, either. “It’s just nostalgic,” Mangione said. “They’re doughnuts.”