Best Donair in Vancouver? You make the call!

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Among the underappreciated culinary treasures in Vancouver is the donair.  In the right hands, this exquisite little combination of seasoned strips of roasted meat, fresh pita and flavourful toppings can match the most haute of haute cuisine served in the city’s fine restaurants.  Offered in humble, mom-and-pop stands, the donair is also appealingly affordable – coming in under $10.

The donair (sometimes spelled doner) originated in Turkey sometime in the 18th century and has since spread around the world.  In Greece, it’s the gyro.  In the Middle East, it’s the shawarma.  A donair starts with roasted meat – usually lamb, beef or chicken – cooked on a vertical spit that spins around.  The meat is shaved off in thin strips and then wrapped in a pita.

Those are the fundamentals.  But some would say a donair is truly distinguished by its toppings.  Choices range from traditional hummus and tzatziki to more new wave options like pickled cabbage, salsa and lime juice.

There are perhaps hundreds of donair joints in the Lower Mainland, many clustered along Granville and Davie Streets, where they draw crowds of late night revelers.  I’d like to know your picks.

Do you have a favourite place for donairs in Vancouver?  Share your favourites below.

I’ll start things off with a discovery I made over the weekend (Judging from the hundreds of comments on Yelp, this is hardly a new discovery).

Right in the heart of Davie Street is an unassuming little place called Donair Dude.  From the outside, it’s pretty indistinguishable from half-a-dozen other donair joints in the area: tiny storefront, bright neon sign in the window, fragrant smell of roasting meat wafting out the door.

Inside, however, the differences become apparent.   Whereas many places offer just a few toppings, Donair Dude has an enormous spread of very fresh options: hummus, spicy pepper spread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, green peppers, tabbouleh, tzatziki, feta cheese and about a dozen more that I’m forgetting.  As for meat, you can choose between beef, lamb and chicken – all of which seem to be fresh, lean and in general a cut above what’s offered at some competing joints.

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The other distinguishing factor is the size of the donairs.  They start you out with an enormous pita, which is then expertly stuffed by the staff.  Importantly, the pita is never overfilled.  What you’re handed in the end is not some sloppy, dripping mess but a neat, tidy package of seasoned meat and veggies.   And it’s a true two-hander.  The donair you end up with could easily be two meals . . . or one giant, indulgent one.

Last but not least, there’s the price.  I’m not sure how this is possible, but the donairs are only $6.50.  For the size of the dish and the quality, that has to be one of the best bangs for the buck in the city.

But of course there are plenty of other fantastic donair places in Vancouver. What’s your favourite?  Please share your secrets below. 

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond?  Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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