The Fuzz Box: Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go get a donair. Seriously.
For lovers of the Halifax donair, you already know that outside Halifax, there's always a chance you're going to get something that's not quite a donair.
Outside Nova Scotia, that chance increases - a place in Fredricton once served me a donair with sour cream, not donair sauce (what?!) If you leave the Maritimes and ask for a donair, there's really no telling what you're going to get.
However, after a trip to the Fuzz Box, everything has changed.
After reading a few newspaper articles about this place in Toronto called The Fuzz Box, I dropped them a note to get their information for the site, and told them I'd be sure to drop in the next time I was in town.
Less than a week later, I'm on a plane headed to Pearson airport.
Suppertime one evening, I find myself with 2 hungry and eager friends who are both well versed in what a real Halifax donair should be, headed down Danforth St, looking for #1246 - and it's easy to spot. There's a huge Nova Scotia flag on the sign. Marketing, or reality? Only taste will tell.
Neil, the owner, greets everyone who visits with eagerness - you can tell this is a man who loves people and is enjoying what he does. Talking to other folks in the shop, virtually everyone has some sort of maritime connection. One of the other patrons was from Halifax, a couple from New Brunswick, one had come in since their mom had called to say "go get some real Halifax food". Nice.
Neil commented that this was one of the only restaurants in Toronto where the patrons talked to each other, and I think that could be part of the Fuzz Box's magic. It's a very "Halifax" thing (for lack of a better term, I do know this happens all over the Maritimes) to talk to folks waiting for their food, or in line with you. It just isn't done in Toronto.
The three of us ordered a single large donair to split between us, having other foodie obligations to attend later that evening, and sat down to wait.
Here's where the Fuzz Box gets things done a little differently than traditional Halifax donair shops. Firstly, they've defaulted to using a Greek pita which is thicker and stronger than the traditional Lebanese pita. This prevents your donair from falling apart in your hands. For the purists, you can still request the traditional Lebanese pita!
Secondly, there's no meat on a rotating spit.
You heard me. There's no meat on a rotating spit. Neil explained that instead the meat is mixed daily by hand and loaves of it are cooked in the oven. These loaves are then sliced & grilled to order.
Many of you at this point have just stopped reading and may even be thinking that there's no way you can make a good donair without the traditional spit of meat. Please prepare to have your minds opened.
Cooking the meat in loaves and then slicing it for donairs, believe it or not, I think is actually better. Yes, you read that right, better. It does change the consistency to be less cohesive and prone to breaking apart, however we should all remember that you can't eat a 6 inch strip of traditional donair meat without some cutting, biting and making a mess. Neil also told us that having loaves pre-cooked and then grilled when orders are placed lets him serve a more consistent product - which I agree with, more on that later.
When we heard "Orders up!" I could feel my mouth start to water. Moments later we were delivered a pretty awesome looking donair. Perhaps a little smaller than the average Halifax donair, but a very honest looking donair none the less.
Neil has also said that people have come in and said they can't order donairs without tasting a sample of the sauce. They've been given sauce before that just isn't up to Halifax standards. This sauce has the same look and apparent viscosity as anything you'd get in Halifax. Perhaps we have a winner?
We looked our new donair over, unsure as to what we'd find when we unwrapped it... but when we did it was pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Our hopes were getting up at this point - looks like, smells like, served like - would it taste like home too?
When you go to the Fuzz Box - and I know you will if you're in Toronto - before you take your first bite of their donair, close your eyes and imagine a group of 10-12 people just walking in from a very drunken night at , all being a little louder and more obnoxious than they should be. That's the only thing that could make this donair more Halifax.
My first bite was just top shelf. The sauce was perfect. The taste of the meat was perfect. The texture was different, but I wasn't dealing with trying to cut a donair meat tentacle without utensils. Second bite. Perfect. Onions, tomatoes, sauce that would make any Nova Scotian proud, and perfectly spiced beef.
All three of us were kept completely mesmerized, only able to utter phrases like "oh my God.", "so good.", "wow." Every bit of anticipation I had before trying The Fuzz Box was worth it, this donair was the real meal deal, hands down. Every expectation I had for my first Ontario donair experience was met with ease, and then completely blown away by The Fuzz Box's super donair.
We left with a new sense of awe for The Fuzz Box, heading off to visit some other non-donair places that evening. Had some other awesome food, a good evening out with friends.
As is known to happen as evenings wind down, we all started discussing our donair experience. 10 minutes later, we were in the car, headed back to The Fuzz Box. We wanted another one.
Yes, you read that right. The Fuzz Box makes donairs so good that we had to go back and get another one.
Our second visit was to a store that was much quieter, less folks were about this time of evening. With a traditional meat on a spit donair, you'd end up with a very different experience - the meat might be dried out, or not warm enough. Our second donairs (one each!) were identical to the first in taste and texture.
I may add some more details and photos here after I've had a bit more time to digest my Fuzz Box experience. However, I can say without any hesitation that if you want a Halifax donair in Toronto, go see Neil at the Fuzz Box. He's awesome.
The Fuzz Box 1246 Danforth Ave Toronto (416) 769-1432 thefuzzbox.ca