When you enter Duffin’s Donuts, you’re welcomed in with a mouth-watering—albeit confusing—smellscape. On a popularity level, their greatest hits include fried chicken, doughnuts and tamales, but it’s the Viet chicken sandwich that takes the cake for me. Yes, they also have cake. Of course they do.

When I was growing up, the beige-tiled confines of Duffin’s was one of my family’s favourite take-out spots—we’d go for any occasion, from after-school snacks to the first taste of real food after a stint in the hospital. My sister had an affinity for window-shopping the perfect box of doughnuts, but my one true love was that Viet chicken sandwich. The weight alone will tell you that this sandwich is an architectural feat, but once you unsheathe it from its paper-bag cocoon, that fact becomes unmistakable. It’s stuffed crust-to-crust with enough ingredients to satisfy a hungry stomach after baseball practice, yet boasts the structural integrity to survive the inevitable bumps of any road trip. Crunchy French bread slathered with mayo envelops shredded lettuce, tangy marinated chicken, cucumber, herb-that-shall-not-be-named (cilantro), pickled carrots and the wild card: a sliced jalapeno pepper—sometimes just a sliver, enough to wake up a tired palate, and sometimes a green inferno, living proof that variety really is the spice of life. 

Love Letter: Duffin's DonutsJenny Reed

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While Duffin’s has always held sentimental real estate in my heart, it has also achieved cult-like status in Vancouver as the premier establishment serving hungry customers 24 hours a day on weekends (and from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays). Nothing triggers a more vigorous head-nod when I’m out and about than a fellow fan spotting me rocking my T-shirt with the Duffin’s logo emblazoned in red across the front. It’s really the only time anyone looks at my chest with any hint of admiration.

An added bonus is that there is no better place to people-watch: the Duffin’s clientele is as varied as the items on their menu. Painters caked in the residue of their day’s work, business folk nervously squeezing BMWs in the cramped parking lot... hell, I’ve seen a funeral party make their way through these doors for a respite from a difficult day. This is a place where people from all walks of life (and levels of sobriety) converge at all hours of the day for something affordable, comforting and satisfying. Yes, those are three things that Vancouver may not always be known for, but they are also three sentiments that make Duffin’s special to me. It’s a hug you can taste, and it’s a stubborn stalwart in a city of constant change.

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