Hopgood’s Foodliner Rocks the East Coast Flavours

Anyone who knows me or who reads this site regularly knows my feelings on donairs. Particularly that we don’t have any good ones here in Toronto, and that it’s a crying shame because we do so much to celebrate the street food of other cultures, but we seldom, even within the realm of “local”, celebrate the food of Canada. That goes for all Canadian foods, actually, not just street food, and it’s truly a delight to see restaurants like Keriwa Cafe, and Acadia to some extent (Chef Matt Blondin has a specific niche but there’s definite Canadian influences) and now Hopgood’s Foodliner (325 Roncesvalles Avenue) picking up on Canadian regional cuisine.

Geoff Hopgood has been very quiet about his recent restaurant opening. Few people knew it was even happening until news of the soft opening broke on Twitter and an exclusive with the Globe and Mail’s Chris Nuttal-Smith ran the following day. A website with the most basic info was made in late January, but wasn’t getting indexed by Google as Toronto food freaks desperately searched for more information last Friday.

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Queen of Donairs

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted to the Toronto LiveJournal community, asking about where to get Nova Scotia style donairs. After we collectively determined that there is no place in Toronto to get this much-loved street food, I fessed up and admitted that I have a copy of the original recipe created and marketed by the chain King of Donairs. And despite encouragement to start my own donair stand here in Toronto, I’d still rather just make the things at home.

Now while the donair resembles the traditional Greek gyro in many ways, it’s not a gyro. Not even close. The meat is different, and more importantly, the sauce is different. How Halifax became the place where the gyro or doner kebab was bastardized and grew in popularity, I’ll never know, but donair joints are on every block in downtown Halifax. Most of the shops that sell donairs also sell pizza, most famously on the corner of Blowers and Grafton Streets, aka “Pizza Corner”, where three of the four corners (the fourth is a church) have some variation of a pizza/donair joint. There’s even a donair pizza for those who can’t decide.

It should be pointed out that Halifax has three different institutes of higher learning in its rather miniscule downtown area, which means a lot of students (note to anyone considering a trip to Nova Scotia, do NOT go to Halifax during the first few weeks of September), which means a lot of bars. At one point in the 80s, Halifax had more bars per capita than any other city in North America. What this means is that there are a lot of drunk people looking for something to eat after last call.

And nothing is more satisfying than a donair.

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