Print Edition: March 28, 2012
5643 Vedder Road, Chilliwack
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Prices: regular donair under $10 (depending on meat choice).
33357 South Fraser Way, Abby
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Prices: regular donair under $10 (depending on meat and cheese choice), soft drink included.
I’ll start by saying that if you’ve never had a donair, you are seriously missing out. Pita. Shaved, roasted meat. Miscellaneous vegetables. Sauce. I stand by the idea that the simplest food is the best, in terms of being tastiest or healthiest. Donairs are a prime example of this rule.
However, a donair is a lot like a sandwich in that there are a million variations, some of which are good and some of which are bad. You can use chicken, beef, or lamb. You can add falafel (not that I’ve actually seen anyone ever do this). The vegetable topping selection is similar to what you’d find at Subway, and the choice of sauce (although varying from place to place) usually includes a variety of things, such as garlic sauce, ranch, tzatziki, hot sauce, chipotle and sweet sauce.
The kind of cool part about donair places is the way the meat is cooked: giant, upright roasting spindles are loaded with a side of beef or lamb or innumerable chicken breasts, which are then placed in a semicircle of heating elements. As the spindles turn, the meat slowly roasts – and as the meat roasts, the outer layers are shaved off and put in donairs. This way, new layers are always being exposed to the heat, and the meat in the donairs is always hot. These spindles rotate, cook, and are shaved down all day; by closing time there isn’t generally too much left.
However, while method and ingredients are basically the same from donair joint to donair joint, no two donair places are alike when it comes to the final product. We have a prime example of this in Donairo’s in Abbotsford and Peggi’s Donair in Chilliwack.
Both places are favourites of mine, and I recommend either. Since one is in Chilliwack and one is in Abbotsford, it’s probably easiest to go to whichever is closest. However, for the sake of argument (or assuming you live on No. 3 road and travel times are approximately equidistant), I’ll take each donair joint through its paces.
As restaurant spaces go, I’ve never seen a donair place intended to hold a massive amount of people. Both Peggi’s and Donairo’s have three or four small tables if you really want to sit and eat, but both offer relatively cramped dining areas. Peggi’s, however, has a cosier and more comfortable atmosphere by a mile. The menu is hand-drawn on a chalkboard and local art lines the walls – it’s an interesting place to look around while you’re waiting for your donair to be made. Donairo’s, while suffering the same dining space constraints, has an absolutely massive and mostly empty kitchen, making the narrow eating space seem almost absurd. Both kitchens are completely visible to customers, separated only by a counter. This only adds to the cozy atmosphere in Peggi’s, but only creates a sense of massive, seemingly unused space in Donairo’s.
Donairo’s takes clear advantage, however, in pita. They make and cook it themselves, fresh for each order, and as a result it is the most delicious pita I have ever tasted. Because both pita and meat are hot off the pan, the donairs begin and stay warmer for longer, and a donair is at its best when it’s still warm; because Donairo’s donairs have a hotter initial temperature, they generally travel better, i.e., if it’s going to take you 10 minutes to get home or back to class.
On the other hand, because these pitas are made fresh they tend to be thicker, and as a result they have to be used in more of a tortilla style. The finished donair has the shape of a hard-shell taco; both ends are open, as well as the top (to some degree). It’s because of this more open shape that I recommend sitting and eating at Donairo’s, rather than taking it elsewhere. If not handled correctly, the Donairo’s donair is one that can become messy at an alarming rate. Eating while driving is definitely not an option. The Peggi’s donair, in contrast, is a neat little packet that is easily maneuvered.
In terms of menu choices, Peggi’s is a little sparser; if you’re looking for something that’s not a donair, Donairo’s also offers fries, wings and salads. Peggi’s, I’m afraid, is just donairs. Both offer beef, chicken and lamb options, and Donairo’s has the option of falafel if anyone is interested (or, really, knows what that is).
When it comes down to it, ordering the same thing at these two places yields totally different styles of donair and both are delicious. If push comes to shove, I’d have to pick Peggi’s over Donairo’s; although I am in love with the Donairo’s pita, the more manageable packet and the more welcoming atmosphere drive my taste buds to Peggi’s menu.
But the important lesson you should learn here is to go out and get a donair. No matter where you go, it’s going to be delicious. If you’re a little overwhelmed with all the options, I suggest the Halifax style, which is available at both establishments and contains tomatoes, onions, beef and sweet sauce. And, as the guy ahead of me in line at Donairo’s said, it beats out Subway any day of the week.