How much would you be willing to pay for a donair costume?
Restaurants selling the sweet and salty treat on both sides of the country have been wondering just that, as they fervently outbid each other in an online auction for the rare meaty outfit.
The costume is being sold on the Alberta government surplus website, with bids topping out at a whopping $6,500 on Thursday afternoon.
It’s East vs. West, with Halifax restaurant chain King of Donair and Alberta’s Blowers & Grafton vying for the quirky piece, along with Swiss Donair and Edmonton’s PrimeTime Donair & Poutine.
King of Donair bills itself as Canada’s first donair store, opening in 1973, and co-owner Nicholas Nahas said his team is determined to bring the costume to the East Coast.
“It’s about pride,” Nahas said in an interview Thursday. “We are not ashamed to say that we are the first to introduce the donair in Canada… We think it should be here in Halifax, as silly as that sounds.”
Consisting of grilled beef, tomatoes and onions wrapped in a pita and drizzled with a sweet sauce, the donair was declared Halifax’s official food in 2015.
It was created in the port city in the 1970s by Greek restaurateur Peter Gamoulakos, who wanted to share the flavors of his homeland with Halifax. The traditional Greek gyro flavor was not well received, so he made some adjustments.
The donair eventually made its way west, as throngs of sailors fled to Alberta in search of better wages and their favorite late-night food.
But western Canadian restaurants don’t always get it right, according to Josh Robinson, owner of the Blowers & Grafton restaurant chain in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.
It is often more like the Greek gyro and includes ingredients like pickled turnip and lettuce.
Robinson, who is originally from Halifax, sought to change that. Blowers & Grafton serves “authentic Halifax street food,” they even ship their donair meat from Nova Scotia.
Robinson said that when she saw the costume, she knew she had to have it.
“We thought it was a lot of fun,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of things we’ve been discussing and we could have a lot of fun with this.”
How does it happen8:17A donair costume sparks an auction battle between east and west
Given Robinson’s connection to the donair’s birthplace, he promised that the costume would not stay in Alberta if Blowers & Grafton won the race.
“I think it belongs to Alberta as much as it belongs to Nova Scotia, and I think it may have some travel along the way,” Robinson said.
“The great thing about the donair is that it’s become a Canadian staple – in fact, it’s one of the most Canadian things out there. That’s part of what my partners think. There are so many fun things we can do in this donair suit across the country.”
Nahas said winning the costume would be a fitting way to celebrate his restaurant chain’s 50th anniversary.
“Maybe we’ll find a place to hang it, and obviously if we do, we’ll have it patrol up and down the road,” he said.
Both Robinson and Nahas said they are exploring the possibility of trying to work with the Alberta government to add a charitable aspect to the auction, since it is set to raise several thousand dollars.
Neither is willing to say how far they will go to keep the suit.
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But there’s one other thing you can both agree on: lettuce has no place in a donair or donair costume.
“I know a lot of good hairdressers in the city,” Nahas said, adding that King of Donair now has locations in both Nova Scotia and Alberta. “We’ll do a little haircut and trim that green thing if we end up winning.”
Auction closes August 14
It is unclear how the Alberta government came into possession of the unusual item, and requests for comment Thursday were not immediately returned.
However, the question was asked by a user on the auction website.
“This costume was a prop for an advertising campaign and is no longer required by the department,” Surplus Sales Edmonton responded.
The costume’s description says it’s made of different latex, vulcanized rubbers, and synthetics, and comes equipped with a silver-colored bodysuit “for an authentic tinfoil look.”
The website said the auction runs longer than usual, a full month, due to “the rarity” of the piece. Bids will be accepted until August 14 at 8 pm MT.