Last week, I wrote this tweet:
Just noticed/realized something: There are a lot of shawarma shops open/opening soon in the West End! Boom of Middle Eastern food?
Years ago, when I was living in the West End, I remember only a handful of such Middle Eastern eateries. There was Falafel King (with a second location in Davie) and Mediterranean Grill. Now, there are a couple of Babylon Cafe locations, Donair King, Sammy’s Hot Wing (which, could fall into the category of being there a long time as well), etc. etc. So, when FOODgrl wrote about yet-another such shops – Donair Dude – I was wondering… Was there anything that would make them stand out from the rest? Yes there was…
I have sort-of a person confession. Several years ago, due to business, I went to Halifax and Sydney/Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. While I was fighting the dreaded jet lag (which I am not that good about, plus it sucks NS is 4 hours ahead of us), I didn’t really wandered around the hotel area. I ended up going mostly to the hotel restaurant, as well as well known chains (*cough*The Keg*cough*). Of course, it didn’t help the fact I was with my boss and co-workers who are more meat-and-potatoes type. While there were a couple of instances I could have slipped those meals and have them by myself, I didn’t. What sort of hurts me in a personal way is that I didn’t go King of Donairs, as there was one somewhat nearby the hotel. Why this particular place? Because, story goes, it was the place that invented the Halifax donair. And why I bring this up? Because Donair Dude mentions they make Halifax donair…
Guess what? Yup, I ordered one of those! Wait, notice something… Interesting? Yup, that was the one point that FOODgrl made mention in her post: these donair are grilled! But, wait, this isn’t the first instance I have seen grilled donairs – Donair King, a couple of blocks away from Donair Dude, grills them as well. Battle of the grilled donairs? It sounds good to me!
Since I mentioned Halifax donair, I ordered them of course. Unlike the shawarma type wraps we see quite often in similar Middle Eastern shops, where the meat is usually chicken, here, the Halifax donair is a donair kebab. When I was there, there was some meat (in the meantime, let’s call it “mystery meat”. While I am sure it can be regular meat, calling it “mystery meat” has some charm of its own) spinning in a spit; however, when this one was prepared, they were using pre-sliced. Some of the charred goodness gone but, still, quite good… Add some feta cheese (additional $1), wrap, grill and you are good to go.
Wait… Isn’t this the same then as a gyro? Well, I have had my share of gyro as well (mind you, in Panama, out of all places!) but, aside from the fact that it does not have tzatziki, what makes it a “Halifax donair” is the sweet sauce. Some of you might be saying “that’s it?!”. Well, I must say that the combination of pungent feta cheese, some crispiness of the veggies, savouriness of the meat and that sweetness of the sauce combined in a mysterious way, which resulted in a really tasty experience. Now, I won’t say it was due to the grilling – it helped but I wished it was crispier; but, alas, I simply can’t explain what it is. Let’s just say that, if you have had your big share of shawarma wraps, the Halifax donair is a really interesting twist.
What? You thought one and that was it??? I also ordered their chicken version! It just happen that, for $10, you can get two of these small wraps plus a pop (single donair/wrap goes ~$5 each for the regular size). So, for comparison sake, I got the chicken version, which, you guessed it, is similar to the shawarma you can find in other Middle Eastern places. Of course, there ought to be a main difference and, in this case, it is the “salad”. Here, as mentioned above, it is a crispy salad of sorts. It worked quite well if you are looking for something “refreshing”. So, if I compare this to other wraps, it would be at par, for the most part.
Overall, I must admit it was quite a good experience (however, I won’t endorse – and most likely dispute – their “Best in BC”). Now, I wasn’t a glutton and finished the second wrap. At most, I ended up having a third of it. While I wish it was closer to my workplace, at least it makes the walk worth it. And, given their decent price, I can see myself coming back. The question now is… What will that Greek themed restaurant across the street (final touches being worked on, as of the day this post goes live) offer that can out do Donair Dude? Yeah, I know, donair, gyro and shawarma are different things but, at the same time, they are so similar that, for an outsider like me, it is almost the same. And, did I mention a lot of shawarma shops???