Boast to an East Coaster about Toronto's diverse edible offerings and you'll quickly be put in your place over our painful lack of true Nova Scotian donair.
Sure, many claim to offer donair, doner, donar, or however you wish to spell it. But Maritime ex-pats will tell you that no matter which way you write it, there isn't a sandwich shop, kebab house, or any other sort of food purveyor in the city that offers the real thing.
Except maybe one. Gyros, a hole in the wall off Yonge near Dundas, has gained a reputation providing the rare find - complete with chunky slices of meat, tomatoes, onions, and that sweet, slightly spicy sauce, all tucked into a warm pita.
Gyros is somewhat of an ironic name, since many non-Eastern folk tend to mistake gyros for donair. But you needn't be skeptical - Chanho Seo (the owner) is proud to make his the Nova Scotian way.
The first time I visited Gyros, I was pulled along by an ex-Halifaxian who was salivating at the prospect of rediscovering this long-lost taste. Having been on the lookout for the real deal since moving here over a decade ago, he said this was the first time the dish satisfied; this was the first time it tasted like home.
As a born-and-bred Ontarian, however, I can't help wondering what the fuss is about. It's tasty, no doubt about it, but the sauce is exceptionally sweet and sticky (something I'm normally not opposed to), and the meat is rather heavy. It's certainly not upleasant, but not something I'd go out of my way for.
(I did, however, get an interesting conversation out of the experience; while my pita heated up in the toaster oven I received a friendly yet slightly over-enthusiastic and entirely unprovoked lesson on the benefits of teaching English in Korea.)
Yet the entire East Coast (not just Nova Scotians) is, apparently, crazy for this delicacy. And while this weekend's East Coast Rhythms festival at harbourfront will offer up oysters, mussels, and Atlantic salmon, the real Maritimers will be giving seafood a run for its money, munching away on these warm, messy, sticky delights.
Put simply, whether you're seeking that East Coast flavour of your youth or just looking for a snack on Yonge that's under $5, Gyros is the one to trust.