Train-themed restaurant chugs its way into hearts of South Hill diners
South Hill diners, the family behind Tim’s Kitchen would like to say a big thank you. They’ve been floored with the positive reaction since opening their second restaurant in mid-February.
The crowds have spilled out the door since they debuted that outpost of Orting’s original Tim’s Kitchen in a South Hill neighborhood full-up with chain restaurants and few local, independent dining options.
A piece of advice: Wait a week to visit or go during an off time. At peak dining times, the restaurant has been serving a high volume of diners, which can crush even the most experienced of restaurant owners. Their pillowy pancakes, giant breakfast skillets, perfectly over-easy eggs, fluffy biscuits and hand-breaded fried chicken are just as good at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday as they are at 9 a.m. Saturday. Trust me on that.
Those crowds are why the restaurant has extended its soft opening hours and will serve breakfast and lunch only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the next few weeks. Look for regular hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily starting after that.
South Hill diners tell me often they’re looking for better independently owned restaurants. Tim’s Kitchen fits that need with its tasty American comfort food at a fair price.
Before opening Tim’s Kitchen, Tim Speakman spent his entire career as a restaurant manager and executive (aside from a detour to a leadership position for a jewelry company). Call Tim’s Kitchen his “retirement” project.
When the Speakman family — wife Kassandre Speakman, son Alex Handy, daughter-in-law Kim Handy and daughter Aimee Speakman all run the restaurants — debuted Tim’s Kitchen in 2013, the menu was short and relegated to breakfast and lunch. That menu has grown to two pages each at breakfast and lunch and dinner.
“Basically, our menu is a collective of different entities and restaurants I worked in. My wife was a big inspiration in the menu as well. She comes up with the idea, we practice it and put it into play,” said Speakman.
That 30-item salad bar — which is becoming a bit of a restaurant unicorn along with crudites plates and bread baskets — was a carry over from when Speakman managed an original Sam’s Hof Brau, a California-based restaurant known for its salad bar and roasted meats. For an example of that restaurant’s roasted meats, look to Speakman’s house-made corned beef.
The gourmet hot dog menu? That’s an outgrowth of Speakman’s work in a leadership position at the A&W spinoff restaurant, A&W Hot Dogs & More.
About those hot dogs: Chicago Dog fans will be happy to hear they can get a close-to-original version there, as well as a dozen other gourmet dogs and sausages ranging from a hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese to a Reuben-inspired dog.
The fried chicken? That recipe came from Speakman’s mother. There’s an entire section of the lunch-and-dinner menu devoted to a lengthy list of breaded chicken options.
The pickle slices that Speakman pops on top of every order of fried chicken are his mother’s tradition.
“My mom never served fried chicken on Sunday without pickles on the table. You had to have pickles and onions with her fried chicken,” he recalled. The family ate that meal “every Sunday at 3 p.m. It was fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, creamed corn, the biscuits I serve at my restaurant, the sweet butter I serve it with. That’s where those recipes came from.”
Speakman’s advice for first-time visitors is to order that hand-breaded chicken, and I’m in agreement. You’ll be rewarded with brined chicken coated in a crunchy, well-seasoned breading and served bone-in). And, of course, a couple slices of pickles.
If you haven’t guessed already, his mother hailed from the South.
Here’s a first bite report of the new Tim’s location. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
The dining room: That train theme at Tim’s Kitchen in downtown Orting was inherited by Tim and Kassandre. The track was installed by the previous restaurant, and it makes sense because the restaurant is near where the train used to roll through Orting. The trains have become Kassandre’s “labor of love,” as Speakman calls it.
“My wife is the conductor. That’s practically a full-time job,” said Speakman. “She’s up on ladders cleaning the tracks, changing out the trains. She spends a lot of time making sure they run.”
Diners can watch the train as it traverses the track around the top of both restaurant dining rooms. The Orting location’s train is more complicated with bridges and more trains, but watch the South Hill train expand over time.
The South Hill location sports seating for more than 80 in the two-tier dining room with roomy booth seating for about half those diners and the rest spread across tables for two to six.
The menu: So big, I can’t list everything, but here goes ...
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy ($7.99 to $11.99), breakfast combo plates small and large ($8.99 to $12.99), light portion breakfast options ($7.69), senior breakfast options ($6.99 to $9.99), chicken fried chicken, steak or pork chops ($13.99 to $14.99), fried chicken and waffles ($14.99), chicken on a biscuit ($9.99), breakfast burrito ($10.99), breakfast sandwiches ($8.99 to $11.99), four styles of eggs Benedict ($11.99 to $12.99), stacker skillets with four meat/vegetable options ($10.99 to $12.99), four kinds of hobo hash ($11.99 to $14.99), a dozen omelets ($12.99 to $13.99), pancakes, waffles and French toast ($8.99 to $11.99).
Breakfast bargain: $5 breakfast is a Monday-Thursday special, 7-11 a.m.
For kids: Multiple meal options for kids 12 and younger, $5.99 each.
Lunch and dinner: Fried chicken choices abound with a two-piece basket or fried ($8.99 to $10.99), a full fried chicken dinner ($13.99), chicken breast strips basket or meal ($8.99 to $13.99), chicken and waffles ($13.99), a family-sized fried chicken feast ($30 to $38), several other chicken entrees ($13.99 to $14.99), chicken pot pie ($14.99), chicken Alfredo ($14.99), steak dinners ($13.99 to $21.99), liver and onions ($13.99), broiled salmon ($19.99), battered cod ($12.99 to $14.99), pork chops ($14.99), more than a dozen gourmet hot dogs and sausages ($8.99 to $11.99), 10 kinds of burgers ($11.99 to $13.99), 10 sandwich choices featuring all the diner hits ($9.99 to $13.99).
Salad bar: 30 items including all the usual vegetables, six dressing choices and crunchy toppers. One trip with a biscuit or soup ($8.99 to $10.99), all you can eat ($11.99) and add-on options when ordering dinner ($1.99 to $3.69).
Beverages: Regular soda options, plus a small beer and wine list.
On a first visit: At lunch or dinner, go big with a fried chicken dinner, which came with that crunchy-breaded fried chicken and two sides —I opted for creamy mashed potatoes with brown gravy and creamy mac and cheese with springy elbow noodles — with a big, fluffy biscuit ($13.99).
At breakfast, the meat lovers stacker skillet is a great introduction with a mounding heap of home fries, cheese, sausage, bacon and ham and two perfectly over-easy eggs ($10.99 to $12.99). Those same perfect over-easy eggs oozed yolk everywhere with the biscuits and gravy platter, served with a side of bacon, and two big biscuits split and loaded with a swirl of peppery sausage gravy ($11.99).
Fluffy eggs were the base of a three-egg California omelet stuffed with bacon, diced tomatoes, cheddar and topped with fresh-sliced avocado, with toast and crispy home fries (or hash browns) on the side ($12.99). A garden hobo hash was equal parts home fries and veggies — spinach, mushrooms, onions and peppers — filling an entire dinner-sized plate ($13.99, but a half portion is $11.99).
Eggs on the restaurant’s Benedicts come standard as medium poached, so be sure to order soft if you like to spill those yolks. The florentine Benedict ($12.99) and classic ($12.99) both came with a hollandaise more buttery than lemony, with English muffins and a choice of potatoes.
Sliced apples in a cinnamon-spiced syrup topped three bouncy pancakes with a choice of eggs and breakfast meat ($11.99).
South Hill: 12615 Meridian Ave. E., 253-446-6750.
Orting: 114 Washington Ave. S., 360-893-3003.