Portage la Prairie is planning to beef up local restaurants’ friendly competition during its first-ever Burger Days.
Fourteen eateries will participate in the event, which runs from June 7 through 13. Most restaurants are making specialty burgers, but some are preparing two or more new offerings. Foodies will be able to vote for their favourite creation online.
Boston Pizza, Cafe on Prince, Chicken Chef, Heatz, Jimmy's Submarine, Lake Shore Restaurant & Bar, Mary Brown’s, Mole Guacamole, Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual, Oriental Pearl, What’s the Scoop, Southport Golf Club, Tavern United — Canad Inns Portage and Tornado’s Restaurant & Lounge have signed up for the challenge.
The Portage Regional Tourism Committee announced the special week during Manitoba’s third shutdown of in-person dining at restaurants.
"We just thought, ‘You know what, there’s a lot of people that are struggling and could use the extra income,’" said Kellie Verwey, a member of the tourism committee and the economic development co-ordinator for Portage Regional Economic Development.
Verwey hasn’t seen any local restaurants permanently close this past year. Actually, new ones have been opening, she said.
Even so, the pandemic is not an easy time for businesses.
"There’s no guarantee any day. When things like this continue to drag out, I think the threat of closure is there," Verwey said, adding restaurants should be OK if people continue to support them.
The tourism committee looked at neighbouring communities’ specialty food weeks, including burger weeks and poutine weeks, and saw a reported uptick in sales for restaurants. The committee is giving away local restaurants’ gift cards to folks who share pictures of themselves eating a Burger Week meal on social media using the hashtag #PLPBurgerDays. It’s an incentive to spread the word.
Portage la Prairie’s burger week will likely become an annual event, Verwey said.
Mark Upward entered Cafe on Prince in the competition.
"If Portage is going to put something like this on, of course we’ll be a part of it," the owner and head chef said.
He called Burger Days a "morale booster" for businesses and customers who’ve been dealing with the pandemic for well over a year.
"I think, by this time … for all restaurants, (the shutdowns are) kind of a monotonous thing," Upward said.
As of May 25, he hadn’t decided on what his Burger Days submission would be, but he hoped to rotate different burgers throughout the competition.
For Areli Hernandez, the week is a chance to link Mole Guacamole to Portage la Prairie’s larger restaurant community.
The family-owned Mexican food hub opened in the summer of 2019, about seven months before Manitoba got its first COVID-19 case.
"I think it (is) a good opportunity to … join in to be part of Portage," Hernandez said.
Mole Guacamole is offering a handmade patty on a brioche bun, topped with homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli.
Burger Days is happening at a good time, Hernandez said.
"Everybody’s a little bit stressed, a little bit worried, and we want something like this to get our heads off thinking about what’s happening," she said. "It’s something more exciting to look forward to."
The week should leave a positive impact on Portage’s economy, she said.
A full list of participating restaurants, along with burger descriptions and a place to vote, will be available online.
The Headliner community journalist
Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Gabby is a cub reporter fresh from Red River College’s creative communications program. She majored in journalism and spent the summer of 2020 as an intern at the Winnipeg Free Press. Gabby also has a B.A. in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She reported for newspapers in the Interlake, including the Selkirk Record, in 2019, and received the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in 2020. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find Gabby listening to podcasts, attempting yoga or petting somebody’s dog Email her at email@example.com