Tim’s Place – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED: 2015)
“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
WARNING: The program you are about to see…seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show–in a mature fashion–just how absurd they are.” With that stark warning, the landmark satire All in the Family debuted on January 12th, 1971. No television program–before or since–has changed the face of television to the extent All in the Family did. Some credit it for ushering in the era of political correctness.
At its peak, All in the Family was the highest rated television show in America from 1971 through 1976, commanding as many as sixty percent of all television sets across the fruited plain. Many tuned in to see what the show’s central character Archie Bunker would say or do. A bigoted loading dock worker from Queens, Archie unabashedly expressed his every racial and political view, all of which were borne out of negative stereotypes, intolerance and ignorance. Invariably his malapropisms and foibles made for very humorous television.
In one especially memorable episode, the target of Archie’s unfounded misconceptions was George, a cognitively disadvantaged box boy. Archie caused George to lose his job by encouraging him to take a break while still on the clock at the market. Undaunted by Archie’s attitude, George left, returning later with a new job and a plaque which read, “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.” It’s a lesson we should all heed.
Though born with Down Syndrome, Tim Harris has been teaching everyone with whom he comes in contact very important lessons, one of the most important of which is the therapeutic value of hugs. Tim is the proprietor of Tim’s Place, the “world’s friendliest restaurant.” He makes it a practice to bestow his staff and customers with a “Tim Hug,” a calorie free, guilt free treat “guaranteed to improve your lease on life.”
In his book Touching: The Human Significance of Skin, Dr. Ashley Montagu affirms the importance of touch on all aspects of human development: “Both the hugger and the person being hugged benefit because they have the immediate positive outcome of feeling good. Hugs are heartwarming and can have the effect of leaving one energized and rejuvenated. A caregiver’s hug accurately expresses to a child feelings of love, acceptance, comfort and a desire for closeness.” He adds, “Hugging is health-enhancing because it reduces tension and stress, aids the immune system, helps with sleep, assists in building self-esteem and best of all has no negative side effects. When we open our hearts and arms to others, we inspire them to do likewise.”
As of June 30, 2011, the date of my inaugural visit, Tim had given more than 11,000 hugs according to the Official Hug Counter hanging on a wall. That’s a lot of therapy! Tim doesn’t charge extra for this life-affirming succor and unlike some credentialed quacks who charge an armload, he consistently gets results. Just look at the beaming faces of loyal patrons who frequent Tim’s Place not only for the excellent food, but for the soothing picker-upper of a tight hug from what may well be the Duke City’s most beloved restaurateur.
Tim’s life is an inspiration, the story of a young man unencumbered by limitations and surmounting life’s vicissitudes to excel at every challenge which came his way. A 2004 Eldorado High School graduate, Tim was elected homecoming king by the highest voting margin in school history. On the week of graduation, he was voted Student of the Year by faculty, staff and administration. He has earned dozens of gold medals as a Special Olympian participating in basketball, volleyball, poly hockey, track and field, and golf.
In 2008, Tim graduated from Eastern New Mexico, earning certificates in Food Services and Office Skills. He honed his skills in the hospitality industry by working at several restaurants before embarking on his current entrepreneurial venture as owner of Tim’s Place. The world’s friendliest restaurant has been open for breakfast, lunch and hugs since June, 2010, earning a loyal following. Tim’s Place is open from 6:30AM to 2:30PM seven days a week.
The staff at Tim’s Place works in tandem to ensure your dining experience is as pleasant as it can be. Tim starts each day with hugs for all his employees. It’s no wonder they’re all so friendly and attentive; the attitude of the owner is infectious. Customer service is more than a term at the friendliest restaurant in the world; it’s the way business is conducted every single day with every single customer.
With personal customer service being the focal point, the menu doesn’t have to be a compendium of every breakfast and lunch item possible as you’ll find at some of the impersonal, cold and unfriendly chains. It does, however, have to be well executed or the savvy Albuquerque dining crowds wouldn’t return in droves…no matter how friendly the staff and owner are.
The breakfast and lunch menus showcase stick-to-your-ribs entrees, both traditional American and New Mexican favorites. Portions are generous, but not profligate. Best of all, you can have either or both breakfast or lunch at all hours in which the restaurant is open. A salad with waffles, a green chile cheeseburger with French toasts…the possibilities are delicious. Kiddo’s breakfast and lunch items are also available as are breakfast and lunch desserts–just peachy cobbler, cobbler of the week or ice cream.
Perhaps the most creative item on the menu is a starter which by virtue of its name you might expect to find at an Asian restaurant. Tim’s Rangoon artichoke wontons are much better than just about any wontons you’ll find at any Asian restaurant. These are engorged with a cream cheese and artichoke heart mix then deep-fried to a crispy consistency. They’re the antithesis of wontons which seem to be lots of crispy wrapper with very little filling. The wontons are served with your choice of dipping sauces: cucumber, chorizo or green chile ranch. The cool cucumber complements the artichoke hearts very well.
On those rare days in which you want something other than the de rigueur New Mexican breakfast of huevos rancheros or breakfast burritos, Tim’s offers a breakfast enchiladas plate good enough to have at any hour of the day. Constructed of two farm-fresh eggs (prepared any way you want them), blue and yellow corn tortillas and your choice of beef, chicken or carne adovada served stacked, these enchiladas are as good as just about any you’ll find at any New Mexican restaurant. The carne adovada is fork-tender and delicious, marinated in a rich red chile that bites back. This plate is served with papitas and calabasitas, both of which are worthy accompaniment.
For those mornings in which you wake up famished and you want to trounce your hunger, try Tim’s Big Breakfast which lives up to its name: two farm-fresh eggs any style, two bacon strips, a sausage patty, a ham steak, papitas, toast (or tortilla) and your choice of half a waffle, French toast or a short stack of pancakes. You have to appreciate a breakfast in which you don’t have to choose from among your favorite breakfast proteins; instead, you can have them all. The pancakes are among the best in the Duke City. They’re thick, fluffy and just made for a syrupy bath.
In its annual Food and Wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected Tim’s nachos as the eighth best in the city. The magazine described these nachos as possessing “fresh roasted chile that topped the mound of crispy chips” that “sent us to a happy place.”
Archie Bunker might not have understood the determination and heart of Tim Harris, but even the curmudgeonly bigot would have appreciated the food at Tim’s Place…and who knows. Maybe a heaping helping of a Tim Hug would have changed Archie’s demeanor, too.
8050 Academy, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 30 June 2011
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Tim’s Big Breakfast, Breakfast Enchiladas with Carne Adovada, Rangoon Artichoke Wontons