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YYC - What the heck is a Halifax Donair? & where to find one...

So my bro-in-law is in town from Ireland and wants to go for donairs. Now my usual stop would be Jimmy's see, as it's super tasty and a mere two blocks away. But this guy has requested that he is to be hooked up with a "Halifax Donair"… apparently his staple while attending Uni there.

Anyhoo, have a memory (Chowhound perhaps) that said Halifax Donair differs from A&A and similar by having sauce that’s less sweet and also no radishes, or is it pickles…?

He intro’d me to Zaytoon in Dublin so I feel that I owe him one.

Anyone have a line on this taste of Halifax in Calgary ?

Thanks in advance

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  1. Sammy's on 17th (south side, near 12th) does a fair approximation from what I've heard- actually there are several places in the beltline that make a donair with sweet sauce- Sammy's, Sarah's, Shawarma Knight.

    Anybody from Halifax will insist that you can't get the real thing here, but the real thing looks gross. My partner had the real thing there a few months ago and says that Sammy's is better, so take that FWIW.

    6 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      I will vouch for Sammy's. My friends also prefer Sammy's. I didn't have a donair when I was in Halifax but I can't imagine it would be better than ours - we have a much more divergent cultural mix than Halifax. They probably made them to satisfy the local preference.

      1. re: sarah galvin

        I am from Nova Scotia (now living in Edmonton) and the donairs are much better back home. The difference is in the sauce. Ahhh, King of Donair..memories... I think your BIL would love to go to the Atlantic Trap & Gill! They have Halifax donairs, big arse burgers, and lots of other east coaster names on their food! It has been a few years since I was at the one in Calgary, but I remember it being in a hotel. I am sure it will bring back fond memories of Halifax for him!

        1. re: lisa in edmonton

          I agree sista! Our lebanese style with the sweet sauce is to die for - LONG LIVE KOD!! Not sure where to get it in YYC but YEG has many places. I know the Atlantic Trap 'n' Gill in Edm. makes one, maybe the 'Trap in YYC does too?

          I am now living in Vancouver but even out here there is a 'Trap and also several palces that specialize in the "Halifax Donair" :)

        2. re: sarah galvin

          Halifax actually has a healthy population of Lebanese and Greeks. Yes, the recipe for the doner kebab was changed to suite local tastes. So what? A Halifax donair is a Halifax donair, and if you want one.... then that's what you want!

        3. re: John Manzo

          When we insist you can't get the real thing here it's beacuse we are RIGHT! Have you even BEEN to Hailifax to try it?

          1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

            What's so special about Halifax donair that it can't be copied anywhere?

        4. Can't help on where to find it in Calgary (John has already given you a rec below...edit..errr... above.). A Halifax Donair is like the usual doner kebab, but uses a slightly sweet milk-based garlic sauce and tomatoes/onions. It should be very soaked and sloppy when served. There is a place there King of Donair (or something like that) that claims to have been the first to serve this style of donair.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fmed

            LOL....of course you have to have had a belly full of Keith's or Oland's Ex prior to ordering the donair and stumbling back up Spring Garden Rd. toward campus...nothing quite like waking up Sunday morning...umm, I mean afternoon with that garlic and onion aftertaste and then trying to get those sauce stains off one's coat...........

          2. I am from Nova Scotia (now living in Edmonton) and the donairs are much better back home. The difference is in the sauce. Ahhh, King of Donair..memories... I think your BIL would love to go to the Atlantic Trap & Gill! They have Halifax donairs, big arse burgers, and lots of other east coaster names on their food! It has been a few years since I was at the one in Calgary, but I remember it being in a hotel. I am sure it will bring back fond memories of Halifax for him!

            4 Replies
            1. re: lisa in edmonton

              Isn't "the sauce" made with off the shelf ingredients that are completely easy to find? Why would Haligonians be better at combining sugar, vinegar, canned milk and garlic?

              I think this is like poutine- which is also dead easy to make- where the originators have convinced themselves that "home" is better when anybody with the right ingredients can duplicate it. Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

              1. re: John Manzo

                OT but poutine is poutine and I agree there are a number of good versions outside Quebec but poutine MUST have real cheese curds (that you know from WI squeak when they're cold) and heaps of them, along with fries and brown gravy. Poutine made with mozzarella is just wrong :)

                1. re: John Manzo

                  It's not that you can't make the real thing outside of Halifax, it's that people have a different idea out here about what a donair should be. And for some mysterious reason, nobody seems to do it right.

              2. Damascus Shawama in Chinatown has the sweet sauce--no fries in the donair like at Tarboosh in Halifax, but the taste is similar to what I tasted there. You need to request the sweet sauce before he starts making the wrap. And if you're going for a more "Halifax-authentic" taste, ask that he omit the tzatziki in it. $5 for a inaccurately-named small wrap (they're quite over-stuffed).

                1. Pizza Delight
                  2250 162 Avenue Southwest 215, Calgary, AB T2Y 4Z9
                  (Cross Street: 162 AVE SW and Bridleridge WAY SW)
                  Phone: (403) 338-1616

                  I'd call first to make sure they serve "the halifax" but I'm almost positive.

                  Its all in the sauce, the sticky white sauce! Have no idea why its better but it is and not very well dupicated out West.
                  Pizza Delight is a Marintime institution and we're lucky enough to have one here in Calgary. Its out in the Burbs but worth the trip if you can get down there. Your BIL will also enjoy the garlic fingers! Ya if hes an ol'uni guy he'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
                  Good Luck

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cdn

                    condensed milk, sugar, lemon juice, garlic and onion maybe a little flour... etc. Delicious :)

                    1. re: crigg

                      I used to make the most basic version at a restaurant in NS: 8 cans of evaporated milk with 3 cups sugar dissolved. Then 2 cups of vinegar slowly poured in ... the trick was the stirring motion because you could easily screw it up and it wouldn't curdle correctly.

                  2. Mediterranean Grill, across from Chinook Centre, also has sweet sauce available. I hate the stuff.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Shazam

                      Reporting back after a visit to Sammy's on Thursday for lunch. Bro –in-law’s verdict on his donair was “pretty good”. My lamb sandwich was nice. I asked Sammy to make it Egyptian style (never been there but obviously way more cred than asking for Halifax style). Mine was delish, and while the lamb was a bit overdone, everything else was very nice esp the pickled turnip.
                      Bro-in-law went to Pizza Delight on Friday. “They got the the real sauce,” he submits. But he liked the rest of the donair ingredients much better at Sammy’s. He said he’ll go back to PD and get one with extra sauce on the side and drive back to Sammy’s and sauce up a Sammy’s donair with the PD sauce. He’s clearly a connoisseur. :)
                      Thanks for all the tips. I’m working DT again and will give Damascus a try soon.

                    2. I recommend Big John's Pizza & Donairs on 8 St. SW. They make garlic fingers too. I asked the delivery guy why the pizza and donairs are so much like back home and he said the original owner was from NFLD.

                      Also, new pub just opened on 8 (Stephan) Ave called Below Deck which serves up a Halifax style donair that is the best I've ever had. Not that authentic just cus it's home-made, but that makes it better. It is still very Halifax. And delicious!