Alibi V.20 No.20 • May 19-25, 2011 

Mina's Dish

Great Waffles and the Hugs Are Free

Kitchen Manager Javier Aguilar, Owner Tim Harris and General Manager Daniel Meeker share a group hug.
Kitchen Manager Javier Aguilar, Owner Tim Harris and General Manager Daniel Meeker share a group hug.
Mina Yamashita

Tim’s Place

8050 Academy NE, Suite 101
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily

What's guilt-free, sweet (but not too sweet) and guaranteed to improve your mood? I went to Tim's Place for the answer—a patented "Tim hug." You can meet Tim and enjoy a calorie-free hug at least five days a week.

Gobbling down a perfect Belgian waffle with homemade strawberry sauce—also sweet, but not too sweet—I take in the spacious dining room. The restaurant’s founder, Tim Harris, sits with a table full of diners.

Tim’s Place opened Oct. 1, 2010, in the Northeast Heights’ Sycamore Plaza, where it shares a pad site with Keva Juice and Firehouse Subs. But the idea germinated nearly a decade ago when Tim, then working at Red Robin, met Daniel Meeker and Javier Aguilar. They and Tim’s parents observed that patrons would come back to see Tim, who totally immersed himself in his role as restaurant host. His patrons became friends, then restaurant regulars.

Chicken tacos
Chicken tacos
Mina Yamashita
Tim’s parents had been looking for the right opportunity to give their son a foothold and a future. Tim, one of four brothers, was born with Down syndrome. He was also born with an incredible aptitude to connect with people and break records. Now 25, Tim graduated in 2004 as Eldorado High’s homecoming king and student of the year, then completed studies in kitchen skills and office skills at Eastern New Mexico University, Roswell. He’s won dozens of medals in Special Olympics track and field, hockey, and basketball. Harris and his family have also worked with the mayor of Chihuahua, whose daughter has Down syndrome, to create a Special Olympics program there. The families continue to be in touch.

In 2009 and 2010, Tim sailed through the Bahamas with his parents. On their return, Tim’s Place became a reality. Meeker, general manager, and Aguilar, kitchen manager, head an enthusiastic staff. After all the early publicity and marketing, I was pleasantly surprised by the place’s low-key atmosphere and comfortable ambiance.

Mina Yamashita
Aguilar talks with me while I munch on a chicken taco. “The food is simple New Mexican and Southwest home cooking—warm, like we want the restaurant to feel,” he says. This is reflected in a breakfast and lunch menu covering such standards as burritos, huevos, omelets and great waffles.

The menu’s description of the “Tim’s Place biscuit bowl” is tempting: “We start with half a biscuit, layer it with scrambled eggs, sausage and papitas. We then top it off with the other half biscuit and hug it with either white gravy or green chile cheese grits.”

Lunch covers more territory with appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, salads, enchiladas and a daily homemade cobbler. Generous portions are all comfortably below the $10 mark.

Tim joins us and I remark that he looks a lot different than the photos I’ve seen. He grins and tells me that he and his dad came up with a workout routine and diet to get him in shape for a season of competition. He’s lost 40 pounds in the past seven months, and it shows.

This Friday, May 20, Tim will emcee the opening ceremonies for a Special Olympics weekend event to be held at the UNM Track and Field Complex on Avenida Cesar Chavez. Opening ceremonies begin Friday at 7 p.m. Tim will participate on Saturday’s pentathlon at 8 a.m. Join the crowd to cheer on a New Mexico champion.

Meanwhile, I’m gonna get hugged by some more of them green chile cheese grits.

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