Monday, November 25, 2019

In Search of the Official Halifax Food: The Donair

We get to Halifax and everyone is saying, you have to try a donair. Our friends, who have been here before us, tell us you have to try a donair. It's so ubiquitous to Halifax that it is the city's official food.

On one of our first days here, we tried a 'donair sandwich' at a local restaurant, but I had my doubts as to how authentic it was.

One thing we needed to do was to search out an authentic donair and try it before we go.

As you can see from the picture at the top, it looks like something you'd find on a street in the Middle East. So how did this Mediterranean style food find it's way into the hearts of Haligonians?

Peter Gamoulakos, a Greek immigrant with a pizza parlor in nearby Bedford started selling doner kebabs. It wasn't quite to the taste of the locals so he started experimenting with the recipe, toning down some of the more pronounced Greek savoriness and spice.

The locals pronounced it 'donair' and the new recipe caught on.

In 1973, Gamoulakos opened the "King of Donair" restaurant on Quinpool Road in Halifax. It was a success and soon spawned a chain and imitators. In 2015, it was named the city's official food.

We're headed to the original restaurant. Mainly because we want an authentic experience and it's also in a part of the city where the power has been restored after the hurricane. Many neighborhoods here are still in the dark.

It's a long walk from our hotel, at least a couple of miles, but walking is what we do when traveling. It builds up a good appetite.

Upon arrival, we find a table and peruse our options. We decide to go with the original, classic donair.

They're big enough that we get a large sandwich cut three ways so we can all have our own.

I'd watched the cook slice the meat off of the spit and wrap it in the sauce, tomatoes, and onions.

I dig in and take a big bite expecting a tasty, savory bite...not unlike a good gyro...and - what's this? - it's sweet! I was not expecting that.

So, imagine a gyro with a bit of frosting like you get on a cinnamon roll in the sauce, and you get an idea of what the donair tastes like.

It's good, if you know what to expect, but not quite my cup of tea.

We finish it and now we can be satisfied that we haven't missed anything.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved


  1. Donair is the favorite street food of Berlin too. Germany's large Turkish population has made it popular in many parts of the country.

    I was surprised to hear that it is prevalent in Halifax and that a Greek is responsible for starting it.

  2. Thanks for visiting and commenting on our blog. In Berlin, they're more savory where in Halifax, there's a sweetness to them. Berlin is Doner kabab...the donair name came in Halifax because that's how the locals thought 'doner' was pronounced.