Dude, there’s totally a new donair place on Lonsdale.
No way, dude.
What’s it called?
It’s hard not to like a place called Donair Dude.
Its jocular, bro-ish handle paired with its devotion to one of the world’s most accessible street foods sets the tone for a down-to-earth, no pretense eating experience. And this is exactly what was delivered on my inaugural visit to the joint one recent weeknight.
The Dude is well known in other parts of Vancouver. The original Davie Street location is constantly bustling. Perhaps its most frequented location, however, is on Granville Street at Helmcken, strategically positioned in the heart of Clubland. That shop is open until 3 a.m. Monday to Thursday and until 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
And this, my friends, is how the mighty donair is enjoyed in many parts of the world: super late at night and through glassy eyes. The donair is a quick, tasty and affordable sponge for an evening’s myriad elixirs and a staple of night owls on flight back to their nests.
On the North Shore, Donair Dude occupies a narrow space at Lonsdale Avenue and 17th Street and, with a closing time of 10 p.m., is clearly geared towards a less nocturnal crowd.
The space has about a dozen stools that line a narrow counter protruding from the wall around the perimeter. In keeping with another well-established donair tradition, Dude is really a take-out establishment. And took out I did, eventually exiting the shop laden with a bag of weighty donairs and, in an unexpected development, samosas.
The formula here is basic: choose your core protein (beef, lamb, chicken or falafel), choose your preferred wrapping material (pita bread or tortilla, the latter available in regular, whole wheat or cheese) and then go to town on toppings and sauces, of which there are about two dozen combined. I selected two pita-based donairs, one lamb, one falafel (for my wife DJ), and a tortilla-based donair, this one filled with chicken.
Before continuing, I have to ask this burning question: why is pita bread from the grocery store, the stuff available to us amateur donair-ists, never pliable and soft like the stuff at the neighbourhood takeout? Is it because the grocery store freezes it prior to selling? My homemade wraps invariably split or crumble, resulting in frustrating leaks of sauces and the onerous task of eating the cursed meal through clenched jaw and gnashing teeth, taking bites between spates of profane muttering.
Donair Dude’s pita is pristine and wrapping technique impeccable. The lamb donair (kebab-style lamb, shaved from the big spinning stick) began with a slather of both velvety hummus and garlicky tzatziki. Next, a mountain of shaved lamb was added, along with an I-challenge-you-to-fit-this-all-into-one-sandwich inventory of additional ingredients, which included: lettuce, cucumber, green pepper, tomato, shredded purple cabbage, pickled turnip (delicious, crunchy and tangy with a complex earthiness), hot banana peppers, pickles, sweet garlic sauce, more tzatziki and a liberal drenching of hot sauce.
The donair was molded into the shape of a small brick and then thrown on the grill for a few minutes to crisp and warm the pita. This sandwich thoroughly met my expectations, bursting with familiar, proven flavours.
I ate only half in the first sitting, eager to know what the chicken tortilla donair tasted like. The garnishes on this latter were largely the same as on the lamb, save the addition of pineapple, chosen on the recommendation of the very helpful and affable member of Dude’s staff responsible for fashioning my three sandwich-bricks. It was a surprisingly excellent topping that added sweetness and acidity. I’d suggest the tortilla donair is the larger of the sandwich options available at Dude and makes for a very filling meal.
DJ’s falafel donair featured no fewer than five plum-sized falafels, smashed into the pita and topped with the usual suspects as well as tablouleh, the wonderful bulgur wheat and parsley salad. The falafel donair is a delicious veggie option and is every bit as generous and filling as the other menu items. While it was not on my wish list heading into the restaurant, I liked the look of Dude’s samosas and picked up both a beef and vegetable version. Both were outstanding, generously filled and deftly seasoned with light, flaky pastry.
Our meal was $36. Donair Dude,1709 Lonsdale Ave. donairdude.com. 604-770-4431
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Congratulations to Scott Kidd and his team at Canyon in Edgemont Village for picking up the Best of the North Shore award during the recent 2016 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. I had a great rainy night, comfort food experience there this past November and am now anxiously looking forward to their spring and summer menu.
Blue Eyed Marys, which served its last ever meal on April 30, took home second place, while West Vancouver’s Feast Neighbourhood Table was awarded third place. An honourable mention went to Trattoria Park Royal.
Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. A self-described wine fanatic, he earned his sommelier diploma in 2001. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. North Shore News dining reviews are conducted anonymously and all meals are paid for by the newspaper.