Halifax and the King of Donair

In our last year of university one of my housemates suggested that we should take a trip together every year for the rest of our lives.  No wives, no kids, no work, just the guys in some random part of the world.  Last year we ended up in Vegas and needless to say, after that gong show, it was a tradition that we were all pretty set on keeping.  This year, given the recession and the fact that a few of our friends had made some big purchases (i.e. houses and engagement ring(s?)) we decided to go somewhere relatively local, like Halifax.  One of our buddies is originally from Halifax and it just so happened that his parents were out of town at the time so it seemed like an opportune time to make our way east.  As with any city I travel to I like to find out three things before going: what are the local fun things to do, where are the good bars and who has the best food.  Prior to leaving I knew I wanted to eat two things: donairs and garlic fingers.

Getting everyone there was a bit of a challenge seeing as flights were delayed and one was cancelled (unfortunately the cancelled flight was supposed to carry the guy we were supposed to stay with).  Once we made it into the city the first thing we did was find a pub and order some food.  We ended up at a place called Freeman’s right across from The Dome, a huge building with multiple bars, cheap drinks and the starlet from the Keith’s brewery tour who, the following day, would steal our hearts with a lovely ballad.  As we sat at the table we were debating, “Greasy appetizer platter?  Donair platter?  Garlic fingers?”  By the end, we landed on the greasy appetizer platter and a donair platter…each.  Everything was okay, pretty standard bar food (except for the fried pepperoni which was interesting and garlic knots which were galicious)  but the donair was a little dry.  It was this dry donair that probably made the next day’s Donair seem so spectacular…or it could just be THAT spectacular.  In the morning/early afternoon we were wandering around downtown Halifax trying to decide what to eat before going on the Keith’s brewery tour.  As we wondered down the streets we came upon this sign (which would later be described to us as pizza corner):

IMAG0050I had heard about this place from several Halifax natives and the online food community (even wikipedia mentions it…and yes I typed in “Donair” into wikipedia).  We enter the corner shop and it smells of spiced meat, melted cheese from the pizza under the heating lamp and a tiny hint of the drunk patrons from the night before.  We walk up to the counter and each order a donair.  We sit at the tables inside as I watch the guy behind the counter begin shaving long, thin sheets of the meat off the giant slab of meat rotating in a half enclosed heat lamp.  It takes several minutes before the first batch arrives.  As it arrives, I hold the warm foil in my hands and I feel a twinge of excitement as I begin unwrapping the gift like a five year old on his birthday.

My first thought when I finally hold it up is, “Whoa man!  This thing is messy!  Whoa man! It looks kind of gross but smells so good.”  I took a picture with my camera phone and at first we thought it might have just been a bad picture.  So, our other buddy took a picture with his super high resolution camera but all it did was capture the oozing donair sauce in more detail.

IMAG0051I carefully take the first bite ensuring I take in a little bit of each ingredient with a healthy portion of the sauce.  The meat was soooo rich in flavor. Not too salty and just tender enough that I don’t have to put too much effort into chewing.  The small pieces of tomatoes and onions are subtle in the background but are generally overpowered by the donair sauce.  I liked having the vegetables though since it made me feel like I was being a little healthy…that is until I found out that the donair sauce is essentially icing sugar, vinegar and water….but mostly icing sugar.  That’s probably why it’s so delicious.  We each plough through the donairs, some of us making more of a mess than others, but each leaving very satisfied saying, “That was so much better than last night’s donair!”

We spent the rest of the weekend touring the city; taking in the bar scene; and enjoying some live music courtesy of the local bar bands.  No matter where we ended up earlier in the night, whether it was an empty parking lot in Dartmouth or a sketchy motel (after forgetting what city I was in and telling the cab driver to take me to Bay and Dundas), we somehow made our way to King of Donair, or at least had it delivered to us (Donair pizza is just as awesome as its wrap counterpart and it also cheese).

The last thing I wanted to try before leaving the city was garlic fingers.  Given the busy itinerary our friend had put together I didn’t get a chance to try them until our last night.  After an afternoon at the beach in the freezing Atlantic water I felt like this was a good time to get some warm, comforting garlic fingers.  I placed an order with a small shop around the corner called, Peter’s pizza.  I walked into the shop just in time to see them pulling my order out of the oven.  It smells garlicky and wonderful!  I sat back down in the living room of my friend’s place and began to dig in.  It’s basically like cheese pizza but instead of tomato sauce, they use butter and garlic…it’s as amazing as it sounds!  The bread it crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside.  The cheese forms what I like to call the “sinking cheese bridge” arising from when you pull the finger away from your mouth which causes excess cheese to begin sinking down towards your lap.  The ensuing reaction is to simply dive in for another hit of cheese.  Awesome!  While chewing, the taste of garlic and butter excites the taste buds and then it hits you….the foodgasm.  A foodgasm is much like it sounds, a rush of excitement you get from food to the point where you are so blissed out you almost forget what is going on.


I never did try lobster while I was out there which was a bit of a disappointment.  I did try going to McDonald’s to try the McLobster but apparently we missed it by three days.  Probably for the best.  I’ve had east coast lobster before and I wouldn’t want to tarnish the experience.  All I have to say is that I LOVE Halifax.  The people are super friendly (I had been told “thank you” and “your welcome” more times in a single night at the bar than I had the last two years of bar hopping in Toronto).  The city has some cool sites, tours and a casino (I still can’t believe I’m 0/10 in roulette!).  The bars are fun, the clientele is just there to have a good time, the drinks are cheap, and the live bands are awesome.   And then there is the food…truly foodgasmic!

~ by jlowjlow on August 5, 2009.

One Response to “Halifax and the King of Donair”

  1. Glad to hear you had great times in Halifax along with great food! Never had a Donair, Dad has and the only complaint he has about it is if the guy ahead of him had more meat! Love & Cheers, Mom

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