June 24, 2017

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Burger king crowned

White Top grounds the competition to capture inaugural Munch Madness title

Readers chose Winnipeg's finest burger joint in our Munch Madness bracket.</p>

Readers chose Winnipeg's finest burger joint in our Munch Madness bracket.

In a day and age when immigration is a hot-button topic all over the globe, it’s interesting to note the White Top Drive In, winner of the Free Press’s inaugural Munch Madness competition, owes a small debt of gratitude to a customs official who, 51 years ago, happened to have a pen and roll of tape kicking around.

When Peter Louizos moved from Greece to Canada in 1966, he couldn’t speak a lick of English, his son Demos Louizos told us in a 2013 interview.

Before letting the elder Louizos board a train headed west, the Halifax-based officer affixed a note to Louizos’ jacket, upon which he had written "WINNIPEG" in big, bold letters.

Demos Louizos, owner of the White Top Drive In, with the Munch Madness winning Fat Boy. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Demos Louizos, owner of the White Top Drive In, with the Munch Madness winning Fat Boy. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)

After dabbling in the construction business for a number of years, Louizos and his brother Tony founded the P and T Drive In on Chevrier Boulevard in 1973.

Twelve years later, Peter bought the White Top from a buddy of his, in order to work closer to his home on Matheson Avenue. Ever since Munch Madness kicked off on March 25, the North End institution has been flooded with old and new customers alike, who’ve been following the competition online, as well as in the pages of the Free Press.

"It’s been great the last couple of weeks, having all these old regulars dropping in to tell us stories about when they used to come here as kids, and to have lots of new people trying us out, too," says Mike Rogers, who helps run the restaurant.

The distinctive red-and-white stripped White Top Drive in at 409 Manitoba Avenue. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

The distinctive red-and-white stripped White Top Drive in at 409 Manitoba Avenue. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Rogers says he and the Louizos family were humbled to make it past the first round of voting. To be crowned champ is obviously a feather in their cap, he says, but in their hearts, everybody associated with the White Top were crossing their fingers for a slightly different outcome.

Peter Scouras, the well-known co-owner of the iconic Red Top Drive-Inn, died in a drowning accident earlier this year. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Peter Scouras, the well-known co-owner of the iconic Red Top Drive-Inn, died in a drowning accident earlier this year. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"In all honesty, we were kind of hoping it would be us going up against the Red Top (Drive Inn) in the final, and that they would win," Rogers says.

"They’ve had a pretty tough year and it would have been nice to see them come out on top; we definitely would have cheered on that result. So I guess what you could say is for us, winning is kind of our way of supporting them."

In February, Red Top’s co-owner Peter Scouras died tragically in a drowning accident in Cosa Rica. The iconic St. Boniface restaurant was originally founded by his dad John, his uncle Gus and other partners in 1960.

Thanks to the thousands of readers who took the time to vote in our burger joint competition, as well as to the hundreds of people who left comments online, tipping us off about places we might have missed this time around.

We’ll be back next March with another competition. We don’t want to give away too much, but we will make one promise: it’s going to be a slice.

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by David Sanderson .

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