The neighbourhood's newest family-run eatery brings a taste of Syria to the heart of Winnipeg.

The sign says it all—”Good Food, Good Mood.” In the fall of 2020, Daanook quietly moved into the Exchange District, impressing the neighbourhood with its authentic Syrian dishes and charming hospitality.

You might even be greeted with an offer of Arabica coffee, a symbol of generosity in Syrian culture. Not unlike espresso, Daanook’s Arabica coffee is rich and gently spiced—the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Though the space is small (it took over the space formerly occupied by Vicky’s Diner), this family-run restaurant serves up mighty flavours, featuring homespun recipes of Syrian favourites like shawarma, kibbeh and falafel.

Recipes are courtesy of the women in the family, who add their own inspiration to the traditional takeout dishes. The chickpeas in their falafel are ground fresh to order with a super secret spice blend, and everything is made from scratch or locally sourced when possible. The Daanook meal is a popular menu pick, giving first timers a taste of everything. 

While serving up luxurious flavours, Daanook is a wallet-friendly addition to the Exchange District, making it an excellent go-to for grab ‘n go lunches. Despite opening in the throes of the pandemic when many were (and still are) working from home, it’s quickly becoming a popular spot for the neighbourhood’s office crowd. 

“Daanook” is a Kurdish word that refers to the process of making bulgur grain from wheat. Behind Daanook’s counter is a photo collage of co-owner Karwan Kahil and his family taking part in this ceremony back home in Syria, and it’s fondly remembered as a celebratory and joyous time.

The family is proud to be located in “Winnipeg’s heart,” as Kahil endearingly refers to the Exchange. And a sense of community is at the heart of the business which opened with a goal to support their communities both in war-torn Syria as well as here in Winnipeg.

Case in point—the restaurant recently funded an art project brought to life by Bîstyek, a burgeoning local artist who is also a member of the Kurdish and Syrian community.

“We funded this project to support youth artists like Bîstyek and to support refugees and newcomers as well. It felt really good to be represented in an art piece in the Exchange District,” Kahil shares.

The vibrant mural which colours most of the north side of the building displays the words “being a refugee is part of the story, not the whole story” beside vivid Basquiat-style portraits. 

“We want to assure that we are a part of Winnipeg’s community and Canada’s in general, however we always remember our past as refugees.”