Sometimes you find a place that is worth the drive – a place that doesn’t really offer anything different than what you have close to home, it just does those things better than most places close to home.
Timmy’s Pizza & BBQ in Garrett is one of those places.
Timmy’s owner is Tim Johnson, who started entering area barbecue contests about 10 years ago before setting up shop in a tiny space marked by glowing orange neon lights along North Randolph Street downtown six years ago. A lot of his business is carry-out – the place could have used a revolving door on one busy Friday night – but there are several tables and booths, and the tableside service was impeccable when dining in.
He makes his barbecue sauce from scratch, a tangy but sweet concoction that he says is mostly Southern style with a hint of vinegar a la Carolina-style. His ribs, pork butts, brisket and even chicken wings are dry-rubbed and smoked at around 215 degrees, then get a splash of sauce before being finished in his pizza ovens when they are ordered.
And his pizza gets love and attention, too.
Johnson’s pizza sauce and dough are made in house, borrowing from lessons he learned years and years ago – 36 to be exact – when he worked at Lexy’s Pizza at Spring Street and Sherman Boulevard in Fort Wayne.
And if you want a great taste of both, try the Timmy’s Train Wreck pizza, which incorporates pulled pork, sweet banana peppers, onions, bacon and tomatoes with Timmy’s barbecue sauce. It is topped with mozzarella and cheddar. I have had several barbecue pizzas, but the Train Wreck is the only one that I didn’t get tired of after the first slice or two. It was brilliant with the tender, smoky pork, the spicy peppers and the salty bacon.
I had the Train Wreck as a crazy dough pizza atop Timmy’s crazy dough, hand-stretched dough that is also offered as a tasty side topped with cheese and drenched in garlic butter. Timmy’s also offers pan-style pies and Chicago-style, a double-crust, stuffed pizza similar to Oley’s in Fort Wayne.
A co-worker recommended the Chicago-style Railroader pizza, a vegetarian’s worst nightmare with ground beef, zesty Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni and ham sandwiched between the two layers of crust along with sauce and a little cheese. It also has a pile of mozzarella and a sprinkle of secret spice, which is actually Cavender’s Greek seasoning, on the top layer.
It was a great suggestion, and two of the heavy, meaty slices were all I could handle. The best part of the Chicago pie was probably the enormous back edge, which was folded over to form a cheese stuffed-crust better than any stuffed crust the chains offer.
The barbecue was also top-notch, making it easy to see how all the trophies on display were obtained.
The ribs spend more than four hours in the smoker and a full rack is, indeed, full – with long and short bones. The round short end ribs were tender and meatier, but the smoke permeated the large bones better. Those large bones also must be eaten by hand – no fork and knife – because of the tough silverskin being left on the back, which is standard practice when smoking pork ribs.
The hot wings spend about an hour and a half in the smoker and are drizzled with Buffalo sauce before heading to the oven where the skin crisps up a little. They were smallish, but the combination of smoky and spicy was fantastic.
The brisket sandwich was my least favorite because of its high amount of fat, but it was thinly sliced and moist. I had a hard time picking up the smoke flavor because there was so much barbecue sauce, so I would ask for the sauce on the side next time.
A trip back to Timmy’s will happen without a doubt. The only thing missing was dessert and even that can be found if you ask nicely. My server said I could get a baked elephant ear, which is no longer on the menu but can still be made with some of that pizza dough, a little butter, cinnamon and sugar.
And, yes, it was yummy, too.
Restaurant: Timmy’s Pizza & BBQ
Address: 105 N. Randolph St., Garrett
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Crazy dough with cheese ($3.99), Train Wreck and Railroader pizzas ($12.99 medium; $15.99 large; add $3.50/$4.50 for Chicago-style); hot wings ($3.99 5-piece; $6.99 for 10), ribs ($8.99 half slab; $16.99 full), brisket sandwich ($7.99)
Rating breakdown: Food: ** 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).