Abdul’s BBQ – Burnaby, BC & Paradise Donair – New Westminster, BC

Abdul’s BBQ
4500 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 431-9498


Paradise Donair
723 12th St, #3
New Westminster, BC
(604) 522-0789

I’ll come out and say it.  I’m struggling to find a truly amazing and tasty shawarma/gyro/döner kebab/donair here in the GVRD that I’m really happy with and a place that makes it that I would frequent regularly if it blew me away.  If anyone can help me by directing me to one that is at the top of the class, please, please, please let me know.

As any visitor to Crystal Mall in Burnaby can attest, it is heavily East Asian in context.  Walking inside you feel like you are transported across the Pacific, both in terms of the kinds of shops and eateries and the people packed inside.  So stepping just outside to Abdul’s was a refreshing change to get away from the sea of black hair.  🙂  My experience on this visit was completed by the pack of about fifteen Persians who suddenly came into the store when I was ordering, complete with traditional dress on the part of the females in the contingent.   Pretty amazing and a boost to my expectations of what I could get from this place.

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Tazza Grill and Deli – Calgary, AB

Tazza Grill and Deli
1105 1st St. NE
Calgary, AB
Tel: (403) 263 5922

[Prologue] A brief three day stay in the southern Alberta city has ended for me.  It was a whirlwind of activity, and in between actual work stints I managed to squeeze in a few new and repeat eating experiences – many in the company of the Foodosopher.  Suffice it to say, the Foodosopher is one of those folks who is willing and able to join you on dining escapades on any given day and at any given time – be it the unknown (a new spot), the recommended (by others), and even the dreaded (that rank in the mostly expected-bad category).  Kudos to the Foodosopher for another entertaining few days of sharing meals and I look forward to our next meeting and discussing our plans for Foodosophy.

Tazza Grill and Deli was the first place that the Foodosopher introduced me to in the Calgary food scene several years ago, during a quick lunch break meeting.  Though my memories have faded since that first visit, I do remember that it was not a place that I minded going to again, and hence, my first pit stop on this recent Calgary trip.  As far as I can tell, the Bridgeland area of the city has blossomed into a distinct neighborhood featuring many solid food and restaurants choices, and one that I enjoy visiting. Despite the growing development of the area, it still retains a cozy feel and I think this is reflected in many of the businesses and the people who run them.

Tazza fits precisely into this category as a family run operation. I am sure the Foodosopher could give a more detailed history on the establishment, but I will leave it at this. Its clear the moment that you step inside and give your order, that this place has the process down pat, almost military in its precision. Looking for an item to go, Chicken Shawarma (or on the wrapping, called a Chicken Shistawouk) was my choice – which strangely has replaced Vietnamese Pho as the most commonly had simple lunch item for me of late. The large chalkboards hanging on the walls near the entrance had that old school feel that contributed to that homey feel I had tried to describe earlier about this neighborhood.

Unable to eat it until about fifteen minutes later once I had settled into my accommodations for the night, I was pleased it was still somewhat warm and the extra grilling time to harden the wrap had held up as well. I can easily sum up the flavor after taking the first bite – a complete and well balanced mixture of creamy sauce, crispy vegetables, and both harder and softer pieces of chicken meat. I am sure it would have tasted even better had I eaten it on the spot, but even still, this was one of the best shawarma’s I’ve ever had. The regular size was probably just right for a meal, though the larger variant would be easy to devour on an empty stomach.

A delicious start to my Calgary eating. More reports to follow soon…

Tazza Deli & Grill on Urbanspoon

Babylon Cafe – Vancouver, BC

Babylon Cafe
716 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 677 3522

On Foodosophy, we’ve already hit up a number of places serving up shawarmas/donairs.  I think this is due in part to it being an easy, tasty, and convenience take away lunch item; something that both the Foodosopher and I appreciate when we are rushing from place to place during our work days.  Though on a recent off-day, just before checking out a movie at the nearby Vancouver International Film Festival on Granville Street, I passed by this establishment, the Babylon Cafe.  Actually, I should say that it was the amazing smells of the meat cooking on the spits that were being vented out of this small business that drew me inside like a snake charmer.

A very cramped narrow space in front of a serving counter is what makes up the Babylon Cafe.  With about six people working inside, I could see they needed all the manpower to keep up with the lineup that had already built outside.  No doubt, some of these were being drawn in by the smells like I was, as a first time customer.  I was standing at least four people back when I could see one of the men inside waving at me to give my order.  I shouted it out but by the time I got to the counter, someone else had begun making it, and then again, my final wrapped product was handed to me by a third person who I handed my money over to.  A pretty timely affair, and it was obvious they had this process down pat, but for the newbie, perhaps a bit confusing with all the switching and never knowing exactly which one behind the counter being put together is in fact your order.

As I agree wholeheartedly with the Foodosopher’s take on what makes the “perfect” shawarma/donair, as he so conveniently described here, I will just report on the components of the Chicken Shawerma Wrap ($5.70) that I had…

Pita – Non grilled, and a little dry/stale.  Surprising considering the turnover they have.

Meat quality – Contained both the preferred softer and crispier pieces, providing that much needed balance.  Seasoning was a little weak in my opinion.

Mean quantity – Below average, in comparison to the amount of the other fillings.  This was not filled to the brim so to speak either.

Vegetable fillings – Good range as I asked for the “works”, so no point deductions here.

Sauce – More than adequate amount of the creamy Tzatziki.  As I was drink-less and about to step into a movie theatre, I passed on the also available spicy.

I’ve heard that this place had a loyal following, or at least used to.  It is in a high traffic location, and I can imagine that it does brisk business both during weekday lunch hours, as well as the night crowd that streams in and out of the nearby bars and clubs on the weekends.  For a one-off visitor like I am, I didn’t see anything that would draw me back unless I just happened to be in the immediate area and really craving a shawarma again.  Next time, I am sure I won’t let the incredible scents of the meat that dominate the entire block overtake my common sense.  In other words, a lot more “bark” than “bite” in the case of the Babylon Cafe’s shawarma, which comes in with a final grade of “incomplete”.

Babylon Cafe on Urbanspoon

University Village [Leona Mediterranean | Curry Point | Donair Town] – Vancouver, BC

To recognize the return of university students to the campus at UBC this week, I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the eating options for these youth at the University Village, as they begin or continue their journey in nourishing their minds through academia…

First off, Leona Mediterranean.  Here they serve mainly curries and simple wraps, as well as some platted offerings.  I ordered the special of the day, a chicken leg stewed in a tomato-base, served with a side of cooked vegetables, rice and choice of one salad (I chose the Greek).  The chicken had been marinated okay, and the sauce had both a sweet and sour flavor, not surprising since it was coming from tomatoes.  The rice, a long grain, was a little dry which made me wish more of the sauce that chicken was stewed in had been provided.  The carrot, green bean, potato mixture was decent, with flavor properties like the chicken.  The salad was fresh, nice crisp cucumber and green peppers.  All in all, an adequate and filling meal, which felt healthy.

Next, the Curry Point.  Its located in the far end of the hall, so difficult to spot when you come down the stairs.  It’s part of a chain comprised of three outlets in BC.  The others being in North Vancouver and one on the Island in Nanaimo.  Here you can choose from various curries, getting as little or as much variety as you wish.  The non-veg curries included some Murg Makhani (aka Butter Chicken), the veg ones had among others, Chana Masala.  I elected a non-veg and a veg to complete my pairing, that came with some rice as well as a piece of naan (which was too soggy).  The Gosht Masala (beef curry) had boneless beef, all in the garlicy, tomato paste gravy – but lacking any spicy heat.  The daal (lentil curry) suffered from the heating pan system, as they were breaking down much more than they should, and at the end tasted really chalky.  Again, not much spice at all in the flavoring here, probably “dumbed down” for the local crowd.  I’d pass on this joint, even if it is fast food Indian.

Curry Point (UBC) on Urbanspoon

Finally, Donair Town.  The surprise of the lot, as I was pleased with the tasty package I received, a pita filled shawarma, and I chose a mixture of beef and chicken (both soft and crispier bits).  Stuffed with some fresh lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and generous dollops of Tzatziki and garlic paste.  The regular size ($5.99) was my order and it turned out to be a fully stuffed package, not sure if I could have eaten the super size offering.

I liked how they wrapped it all up tightly, completely enclosed so nothing could slip out until the moment it was consumed.  Less of a mess, and was appreciated as I took it back to my car.  I could see a few kids carrying this out on my way down to the food court here, so know its a popular choice.

So there you have it, a trio of samplings for the back to school crowd.  Back in my days of school, they had nothing like these ethnic offerings, so am quiet envious about the choice today’s students have in their basic on-campus food zones.

University Village [Leona Mediterranean | Curry Point | Donair Town]
B1, 5728 University Boulevard
Vancouver, BC

Donair Town on Urbanspoon