What, exactly, is it about Haligonian donairs that always has Maritimers waxing rhapsodic? “The trick,” says Neil Dominey, owner of The Fuzz Box, “is that there should be so much sauce that it runs down your elbows!” After being disappointed time and time again by this city’s ubiquitous shawarmas, Dominey decided to take on the problem himself with his new eatery on the Danforth—home, he says, to a surprising number of Nova Scotians.
A native of Annapolis Valley, known for its apple crop, Dominey’s been back and forth between Toronto and the East Coast for much of his life. “The first thing everyone does when they get back home,” he tells us, “is grab a donair.” The restaurant, which he’s named after his band, The Fuzz, features a number of musical touches: brightly painted canvases by mom Selina Drake; guitars hanging on the walls; and a TV playing music videos in the corner, with which Dominey hopes to promote local acts.
The donair was introduced to Halifax back in 1973 by a Greek immigrant named Peter Gamoulakos. After arriving from Greece, he opened a gyros shop, which failed, so the story goes, because Haligonians didn’t like to eat yogurt on their meat. Shuttering his windows, Gamoulakos tinkered with the recipe and reopened as King of Donair, now a well-known Halifax franchise. We’re told the key to a proper donair is the sauce: a super-sweet blend of evaporated milk, sugar, garlic powder and vinegar. Wrapped up in a soft pita—wetted slightly before heating to ensure it remains soft—the seasoned ground beef is joined by tomatoes, onions and the all-important sauce (Dominey charges $4.99 for a small and $5.99 for a large). With Hopgood’s Foodliner and The Fuzz Box putting the humble post-bar favourite on Toronto’s culinary map, and lobster rolls popping up left and right, it’ll take only one more Maritime or Newfoundland dish before we’re smack in the middle of an East Coast comfort food trend.