Are Toronto’s donairs any good? We asked two guys from Sloan to taste test them.
We interrupt taco mania with this street-food trend: Halifax donairs. The late-night staples have such a devoted following that it’s not unusual for former Maritimers to pack them on their flights back to Toronto. But how do T.O.’s versions compare to the originals back east? We asked Sloan’s donair specialist Patrick Pentland and touring keyboardist Gregory Macdonald.
The Fuzz Box
East-coast transplant Neil Hohn opened his Danforth donair shop just over a month ago. “We make them almost traditionally,” says Hohn. “Back home they use a thin Lebanese pita. Here we use a Greek pita that holds everything in a bit better. They also tend to order the meat from a plant, but we make our own by mixing extra-fine ground beef with spices and breadcrumbs.” Another change: The meat is cooked in loaves in the oven rather than on a spit.
Gregory says: “The pita is thicker than what I’m used to, but it’s nice that the meat isn’t the mystery kind. The sauce here is just right—not too sweet or vinegary and just thick enough.”
Patrick says: “Yeah, the pita’s a bit too thick. This is more crumbly than the usual sausage-like meat in most donairs, but I do like the sauce. I’d say most meals are just vehicles for the sauce.”
$5.99, 1246 Danforth Ave., #DAN 416-769-1432.
Chef Geoff Hopgood grew up eating donairs back home in Halifax and now serves them at his Maritime-inspired restaurant. The pita is made in-house daily, and rather than using the traditional spit roaster, Hopgood cooks the meat (a mixture of seasoned ground pork shoulder, beef, and breadcrumbs) sous vide for two hours before frying it. Toppings are customary: onion, tomatoes, and the all-important sweet sauce.
Gregory says: “It’s pretty good. The sauce is a bit tangier than usual and I think I can taste some thyme in there, which reminds me of Italian salami or pepperoni.”
Patrick says: “The meat is shaved thinner than usual, but it’s not a bad thing. It could be a bit spicier but it’s still very good. It definitely tastes more homemade than usual. But I wouldn’t normally order a donair before 2 a.m.”
$14 for two, 325 Roncesvalles Ave., #RON 416-533-2723.
Bardhyl Musa has been making Halifax-style donairs since 2004, after he saw a chance to stand out from other falafel joints and called a family friend in Cape Breton to learn how to make them. The beef is cooked on a spit, grilled, then piled on a white pita with tomatoes, onions, and sauce. (Lettuce and mozzarella are options but traditionalists avoid them.) “The main thing is the donair sauce,” says Musa. “We use sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, garlic powder, and sugar like everyone else, but the secret is the proportions of everything.”
Gregory says: “There’s a good weight to it; the pita’s more of a Mediterranean style. It falls apart easily but it’s still tasty.”
Patrick says: “It tastes more like gyro meat and the sauce could be thicker. It’s the least donair-ish. I am a purist.”
$6.99, 450 Ossington Ave., #COL 416-532-8698.