September 28, 2020

Donairs explained: How a humble street food conquered Edmonton

by Chad Huculak @ The Journal

An unofficial count on Google indicates there are nearly 120 shops with “donair” as part of the name currently operating in Edmonton, which dwarfs Calgary’s minuscule 50 and Toronto’s less than 20.

Halifax, the birthplace of the donair, has less than 30 stores listed, though some estimates put the total well over 100. Once you include the endless numbers of burger joints and pizza places that sell donairs, Edmonton has a good claim to being the donair Capital of Canada.

For over three decades Edmontonians have been devouring the meaty concoction, especially after a night of libations, yet it remains relatively unheralded in North America.

Why are donairs popular in Edmonton?

Good question, but first we need to go back to the history of donairs in Canada. As detailed in Halifax food blogger Lindsay Wickstrom’s Book of Donair, donairs arrived in Canada via Greek immigrant Peter Gamoulakos, who first attempted to sell gyros at his Nova Scotia pizza shop in the early 1970s. It wasn’t until he swapped lamb for beef and changed up the traditional Greek tzatziki for a sweet sauce did it catch on with Haligonians, ultimately becoming the Maritime’s late-night snack of choice and even designated as Halifax’s official food. Gamoulakos’ flagship King of Donair shop eventually expanded outside of Nova Scotia, with locations now operating in Alberta.

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