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Many years ago I decided to write a review of what I thought were the best places to get a falafel in Winnipeg. At that time there weren’t all that many eateries serving falafel – and the ones that were in existence were primarily Jewish-owned.

Over the years, as Winnipeg has seen quite a large influx of immigrants from many different countries, we’ve become accustomed to seeing new establishments crop us serving foods that we might previously have sampled only while travelling elsewhere.
Sure, there are delis serving traditional eastern-European fare – and there’s Falafel Place, which has an eclectic menu, including some Israeli-style dishes, but the lone Israeli restaurant (I forget the name – but they were on Pembina Highway) closed years ago after a relatively short period.
But, when it comes to Middle Eastern foods in general, we’ve see a mushrooming in the growth of small, and generally quite cheap places serving shawarma and falafel, for instance. (Shawarma, in case you’ve never tried it, is an Arab dish, that usually consists of lamb, but can also include chicken, turkey, beef or veal.
The meat is cooked all day on a spit and the shavings are put into a pita wrap, along with a variety of vegetable toppings, and with a sauce added at the end. Anyone who’s ever been to Israel is bound to have seen the ever-present shawarma stands, which almost always offer falafel at the same time.)
In addition to shawarma, you’re probably familiar with donairs, which are also quite similar to shawarma, but are served with different sauces. Then there are kabobs, which are served on skewers. Other popular Middle Eastern dishes that you can often order in a fast-food restaurant in Israel include kaftas (which usually come in the shape of meatballs but can come in a cone shape as well) and other spicy offerings.

Recently I had the opportunity to try the food at Best Pizza and Donair, located at 1469 Pembina Highway. I had got to know one of the owners, who goes by the nickname of “Hooch”. I learned that Hooch is of Kurdish ancestry, but like many other individuals of Middle Eastern ancestry who have come to Winnipeg in recent years, he has many Jewish acquaintances, many of whom also came here from Israel not too long ago.
Hooch is also a Mac computer expert and I had been consulting with him about various problems we had been having with some of our computers. I would visit Hooch in his home and each time he would insist on offering me some delicious foods that he and his wife had just prepared. Hooch invited me to come to his restaurant, which he and his brother, along with several others have been operating in Fort Garry the past few years.
When I asked Hooch why it was called “Best Pizza and Donair”, he explained that it had previously been just a pizza restaurant, but when he and the others took it over they decided to retain the word “pizza” in the name in order to let the place’s previous customers know that it was still serving pizza.
I didn’t try the pizza when I recently went there with my wife and two of our grandchildren, but we did order four different dishes: The aforementioned donair and kebab; also a delicious cauliflower dish served in a pita wrap (which my wife, who loves cauliflower, ordered); and something called a “haloom”, which is a sort of cheese pie, and which my granddaughter ate.
Rather than going into a detailed review of each of these foods – something that Marion Warhaft did in a review of Best Pizza and Donair in November, 2013, and which you can read online, let me just tell you that the portions – which were huge, were absolutely delectable. I have to add a warning though: Be careful how you eat the wraps – they’re oozing with sauce and can make quite a mess.
And, while I’ll admit that our meals were Hooch’s treat (I think that it’s important to add that as a disclaimer), even had I paid for all four meals, the total price would have been less than $35 for all four combined. Had we wanted to turn the donair, kebab, and cauliflower into platters, it would have cost only an additional $3-3.50 for each one.
This was definitely a bargain by anyone’s standard and, as we watched a never-ending stream of customers walk in and out with their take-out orders I remarked to Hooch how busy he was. He responded that this was really quiet, so I can only imagine how busy Best Pizza and Donair gets when things are really hopping. Yet, because almost all the orders had been phoned in, no one had to wait very long once they walked into the fairly small space available for those waiting for their orders.
It’s not very far for anyone living in the south end to head over to 1469 Pembina Highway, so if you’re looking for something different for a change and want to try some delicious Middle Eastern food, why not drive to Best Pizza and Donair or, if you want to phone in an order in advance, call them at 204-275-0444.

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