Red Top Drive Inn
Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
Address: 219 St. Mary’s Rd
There’s a reason comfort food stands the test of time. Simple, hearty, warming, and satisfying, it’s a broad category, but you know it when you see it. That’s why a six decade-old, red vinyl booth lined diner maintains a place of pride in Winnipeg’s dining scene.
Red Top Drive Inn has sat beneath the iconic red and white sign on St. Mary’s Road since 1960. The classic burger joint was opened—and run, until 2019—by the Scouras family, Canadian newcomer siblings famed in Winnipeg for pioneering the local style of burger shack, including the local burger style known as the Fat Boy.
Here, it’s called the Lot O’ Burger, but a rose by any other name: it’s still a juicy patty loaded with mustard, mayo, a dill pickle, cheese, onions, and of course, a layer of tangy chili. That chili, a blend of finely ground beef and tomato with a lingering note of warm spice, peps up several menu items, from cheesy fries to spaghetti, as well as several burgers. For non-purists, “The Mayor” burger might be the best of the burg line up, swapping chili for slices of gyro meat, bacon, a swizzle of ranch dressing and a crisp fried onion ring.
Touches of the Scouras’ Greek heritage remain on the menu, and current owners Stavros and Chelsea Athanasiadis carry on the tradition. The Greek burger supplements the typical toppings with a slather of cool tzatziki and a pop of feta. A generous portion of Greek salad makes for a fresh side. Gyros are a highlight, with shaved meat piled into a pillowy pita. The dusky mix of lightly-spiced beef and lamb is loaded with fresh tomatoes, lettuce and red peppers, a pleasantly refreshing bite all drizzled in tzatziki.
Fried chicken is a specialty that sets this spot apart from its drive-in peers. Pressure frying yields a burnished, crackly-crisp crust on the exquisitely juicy (all white meat) pieces.
On the more formal side, a limited set of old school entrées are on offer, including fish and chips and a nicely char-touched “minced steak”, a supersized ground beef patty piled high with sautéed onions. Classic sammies and diner-style breakfast offerings (served until 4 p.m.) round out the menu.
Ask for a thick, creamy milkshake to end the meal, in strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, or caramel-y root beer flavour. The whir of the shake wand is enough to ignite nostalgia in any comfort seeker.