King of Donair comes to Edmonton!

05/25/18 1:31 PM



Rarely in one’s lifetime does an event so monumental, so significant and memorable occur. Today, on the occasion of the grand opening of King of Donair in Edmonton (the first location outside the maritimes), just such an event took place.

“What’s the big deal about another greasy donair shop?” many westerners may be asking themselves right now. Why, I’d be delighted to explain to you the cultural significance of what just went down today.

I was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia (I realize that for many of you, the only Windsor in Canada is that place across from Detroit. Sadly, you are mistaken, as there are 4 Windsors in Canada). In my teens, we moved to Lunenburg, on the south shore of that fine coastal province. I honestly don’t know at what age I was introduced to donairs, I just know that the way they are made back home is superior to how they are made in Alberta, or any other non-atlantic region of this country. “Hold up there, buck-o!” you may be inclined to retort. “I’m from Edmonton and I love our donairs! I’ve even read Omar Mouallem’s articles in the Walrus and Maclean’s, and I even attended his Pecha Kucha presentation on this very subject, and he’s from here. Heck, his father is a pillar in the Alberta donair industry.” Well, I’m aware of all of those things too, my friend, and despite how much respect I have for the western attempt, it always falls short, and they know it. Imagine if someone from say, New Brunswick or Ohio or some other place that has beef started boasting that theirs was superior to Alberta’s beef. You’d know he was a fraud right away, because Alberta beef is the best out there, and we can rightfully brag about it. Same thing goes for the official food of Halifax, trust me.

King of Donair in Edmonton

So, today, a small army of purists came out on a beautiful sunny day to celebrate the grand opening of this sacred establishment, and were not disappointed! See the guy in the cowboy hat? He was customer #1. They even gave him a free KOD shirt. Turns out he’s from Sackville, NS (no surprise there), and every time he would visit hime, he’d buy a bunch of donairs and freeze them in order to enjoy them out here. Ever heard of someone anywhere else in the world taking an Edmonton donair on an airplane? I didn’t think so.

King of Donair in Edmonton

Inside the shop, you felt an immediate sense of camaraderie with other donairs lovers, one which I’ve never experienced in western Canada before. I asked a few people where they were from, and lots were from Nova Scotia. Easily half the staff on hand were as well, so you knew you were in good hands.

King of Donair in Edmonton

If I could touch a bit more on the cultural importance of this oft late night New Scotland delicacy, I’d like to touch on the value of tradition. In Fiddler on the Roof, we are taught that tradition for tradition’s sake alone is reason alone to “tradite” (I may have just invented that verb). In this case, there is something deeper within which keeps the proud tradition of the Halifax donair alive. Many easterners living in Alberta do so primarily for economic reasons. It is no secret that, even at it’s weakest, the Alberta economy has long offered more opportunity for the hard worker than has any Atlantic province. I don’t know that there’s anything to be ashamed about as a maritimer in stating that fact. It’s not something that brings us any joy to say, it’s just the way it is. For myself, I did not move to Alberta for financial reasons, although I’d be lying if I said it’s not part of the reason I remain here after 16 years. And so, with limited opportunities for us to return home at will, a shop like this means a lot. It gives us special feelings of pride and nostalgia to be able to introduce a friend to what will inevitably be referred to as “a real donair” at some point on the excursion.

King of Donair in Edmonton

Let’s move the topic of discussion to the most significant aspect of a true Halifax donair: the sauce. Before we begin, let me just save you any potential embarrassment for any noobs out there-never ask for tzatziki sauce on a Halifax donair. Tzatziki sauce is a wonderful thing, and I thank the Greek gods for it. However, it simply does not belong on a donair, and should be kept to falafels and the like where it is best appreciated. While tzatziki is creamy, that’s about the only thing it has in common with donair sauce, which is exceedingly sweet due to the main ingredient being sweetened condensed milk, which is the base of one of my favourite desserts, key lime pie (thank you, Duchess Bake Shop). Ingredient number 2 is white vinegar. Nothing special, just the stuff that comes in the big jugs that some people put in their laundry or even use as a cleaning product (whatever). Finally, garlic powder. That’s it. There is most definitely no mayonnaise in it, although the end product is very similar. Here you will find proper measurements and directions for preparing maritime donair sauce, which also involves a cooling period in the fridge. I’ve never made it, although my sister Juliette warns that you should not over-stir it, and that lumps are totally fine, preferable even.

After the sauce, it’s the meat that counts. After being shaved from the spit, it is grilled to perfection (ask for extra crispy). It is slightly spicier than its western counterpart. Better, obviously.

The third difference is the way the pita is prepared. It will spend a bit of time on the grill to warm up, as well as soak in some of those delicious meat juices. In the end, it’s more moist and soft than if you were to just grab one out of the bag and fill it with meat.

One final note on the differences between east and west. The toppings. While there is nothing sacrilegious about adding cheese to a donair (it is totally fine, although not required), adding lettuce is an abomination. Never ask for lettuce on a donair. It’s stupid. I will mock you relentlessly. Why dilute a perfectly good donair with green water? It makes no sense. Tomatoes and onions are all you need, and they should be diced. For some reason, the onions were sliced today. That was the only thing I would have changed about my opening day donair experience. Well, that and the addition of Sussex Golden Ginger Ale to the drink cooler. You just can’t buy the stuff, and it’s like Canada Dry with flavour. Trust me. I was sure to voice my opinion to a few employees in the hopes that they find a way to import it, provided NB doesn’t tick off the provincial government, forcing Notley to ban the import of a soda.

King of Donair in Edmonton

Garlic fingers are another unique offering that you’ll find at KOD. Basically a pizza with cheese and garlic, it is made sublime with the simple addition of donair dipping sauce, which comes with every order. I also suggest adding a side of sauce to any flavour pizza you order. You’ll never throw away your pizza bones again!

King of Donair in Edmonton

In conclusion, it’s ok if you think East Coasters are crazy for their donair loyalty, we don’t mind. We’re pretty easy going for the most part, and regardless of what you think of us, we will continue in our sure knowledge of where you can find the best donairs on earth, with our without you.

King of Donair in Edmonton

Jerry Aulenbach is an Edmonton REALTOR® with a passion for food. When you work with Jerry, you can be confident that there will be food involved, as he makes it his job to ensure you know where to find the finest food in town. If you would like this kind of service, click on the BUY or SELL links above and let’s get eating! 780-966-6537

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