Ottawa Donair Quest: Brixton’s Pub
Address: 210 Sparks St, Ottawa, ON
Hours: 11:30am – 9:30pm (M-F), closed (Sat-Sun)
What’s a hungry Nova Scotian to do when he’s away from home? Research Ottawa’s donair scene on the internet for a couple hours, that’s what! While many of the locations purporting to have authentic east coast-style donairs are on the outskirts of the city – or least a pain in the ass to get to for a car-less bum like me – Brixton’s Pub is smack dab in the heart of downtown.
The owners or management must have a Nova Scotian connection, as their menu has a slight east coast slant, with donairs, donair egg rolls, and deep fried pepperoni. We’re a healthy bunch, obviously. Either way, Brixton’s was going to be my first stop on my Ottawa donair quest.
Meeting my wife here on a weekday afternoon, the place was jam packed with the after-work crowd; the narrow pub was loud with the boisterous decompression of a small horde of civil servants. The walls were covered in a mix of old time-y photos of Parliament and Ottawa, and cool Ottawa-related oil paintings. I needed a minute to look over the drink menu before getting something, and poor staffing levels kept the one lone server from getting back to us for a bit. I ended up getting a Boddington’s since they were out of the Mill Street stout, and we put in our food orders as well.
My wife and I were both pretty hungry, and the donair didn’t state that it came with a side. As such, to start we ordered a Greek salad ($6.99) to share, she got the pulled pork quesadilla ($11.99), and I the “Maritime donair” ($12.49)*, which, as it turned out came with a choice of fries or salad. On the upside their donair doesn’t come topped with lettuce or mozzarella like some places in Ottawa (come on, wtf is that?) and our server said the sauce is made in house. On the other hand, this didn’t seem like a place that has enough donair demand to have a fresh spit in the kitchen. Our waitress also told us they make their donair egg rolls in house, though I confirmed later on that the meat they use is from a food service provider.
The drinks and salad came super quick, although we received a Caesar salad instead of the Greek salad we had ordered. With it so busy, and us so hungry, we settled for the slightly less healthy Caesar and dug in. It wasn’t anything to blow your mind, just a typical pub Caesar salad – pale, out-of-season romaine with forgettable dressing. The bacon bits were tiny and sparse, but looked like real bacon instead of that sad, rust-coloured soy “bacon”.
Our mains came right after we had finished the salad, with my small donair served open-faced on a bed of fries. The meat was in strips reminiscent of those in donair kits in the deli sections of supermarkets back home, ala Mr. Donair™. The meat tasted just like that, with the telltale flavour of a donair, although pared back and with none of the spicy kick of some donairs in Nova Scotia. With five or six strips on a small pita, it wasn’t a typical gut-busting donair, but between that, the fries, and salad, it was a respectably-sized meal at least. The evenly cut strips also didn’t allow for the crispy, irregular edges that come with meat shaved off a cone and finished on a grill.
The wrap for the donair was a Greek pita, so it was thicker than those used in real-deal donairs, but I actually liked its ability to absorb sauce and maintain its structural integrity. The pita had received a light kiss from the flat top as well, so it was heated through and lightly browned. Their in-house donair sauce was probably the best-represented component of a proper donair, with a consistency and flavour that would be impossible to differentiate from what’s served in most places in Halifax. Kudos to Brixton’s for making it and doing it right, as I see the potential for a lot of disappointment in my future at other quest locations. Diced tomatoes and onions rounded out the toppings and did their thing of adding pops of flavour to my hot mess of a meal.
The fries were the standard from-frozen variety that you see in many diners, but they were nice and crispy, so I enjoyed them with an extra dash of salt and pepper. Frankly, I’d take these over soggy hand-cut fries any day.
Brixton’s gets a passing grade for effort on their Maritimer offerings and their spot-on donair sauce and their Mr. Donair™ meat may very well be better than a lot of the faux-nairs that I’m going to come across in shawarma places in the city. They’re worth a shot if you’re in the area, have a few pints under your belt, and don’t have the time or inclination to track down the best-of-the-best of Ottawa’s donairs. Leave that to me.
*All prices are from their their possibly out-dated website