The Skinny on Winnipeg’s Favourite Takeout: The Fat Boy

By: Karen Burshtein

What is Winnipeg’s signature takeout food? It’s the one ex-locals absolutely need to pick up on a visit home. The envelope please… 

The Fat Boy (aka Fatboy). 

At its core, a Fat Boy is a cheeseburger topped with mustard, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, a generous dollop of mayonnaise—and, crucially, a chili meat sauce, in a deliciously messy marriage of acid, saltiness, beef-y umami, creaminess and crunch.

The Fat Boy is a Winnipeg treasure found nowhere else, and it’s almost a civic treason not to have it on a burger joint menu, especially the many Greek-owned establishments in the city. Many of these longstanding burger spots claim to be the inventor of the Fat Boy. But its origins are typically traced to immigrant Gus Scouras who, along with his brothers, opened a slew of  burger spots in the city many decades ago and added chili meat sauce to the burgers. (Note that the sauce is never five alarm hot and doesn’t have beans; it’s akin to the meat sauce that goes on a Coney Island hot dog, which owes its origins to Greek immigrants).

Some employees of the Scouras brothers’ restaurants went on to open their own take out burger places – including Mike Lambos, who bought the Dairi-Wip Drive-In in 1959 and claimed to have created the name Fat Boy, if not the initial concept. 

Fat Boy burger joints pretty much look the same, basic huts that are  frozen in time. Typically they have a couple of tables inside, but their specialty is takeout. And the classic old school packaging adds a crucial touch of nostalgia: burgers wrapped in foil and fries that come in a small, grease stained brown paper bag or paper tray box.

One Winnipegger is on a mission to try them all.

But if you’re not quite that ambitious, here are five Winnipeg burger joints where you can try the classic Winnipeg Fat Boy.

This tiny humble looking takeout shack across from Winnipeg’s Union Station is a local institution. It’s not a drive-through, but essentially a parking lot with a burger stand in it. The menu is posted just inside the aluminum door. Place your order at the walk-up window and move along the line watching the juicy burgers being cooked in the open kitchen. Their Fat Boy is messy and delicious and the cumin-laced chili sauce has just the right hint of zing. Their signature fry move is to spill half the order from a paper bag onto the cardboard take out tray with a flourish of the hand. VJs also does great milkshakes in an array of flavours including lemon lime. 

Address: 170 Main St., Winnipeg, MB

📷 photo credit: @tourismwinnipeg

An insider’s favourite Fat Boy place. If you aren’t sure about the idea of chili on your burger, this family-owned burger shack will  try to win you over with a sample of their tasty version. Their made to order burgers are juicy and generous in size topped with cheese that is melted to perfection. For those who want it all (a slim waist and a Fat Boy), their mini box meal is a great option. It’s a mini fully loaded Fat Boy and a mini serving of their fresh homemade fries in one takeout box. While you’re waiting to pick up your order, entertain yourself with the vintage newspaper articles about the St. James neighbourhood that paper the walls. 

Address: 1909 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB

Junior’s Restaurant, started by Gus Scouras, claims to be the home of the original Fat Boy. It’s certainly been a staple in Winnipeg for over 60 years. Its red and blue logo is almost as distinctive to local dwellers as the golden arches. The original location at Broadway and Main is no longer there but there are three other Juniors throughout the city where you can enjoy a Fat Boy with juicy patties, a slightly sweet chili sauce, and all the fixings between a pillow-y sesame seed bun. Their skin-on fresh cut fries are crispy and delicious.

Address: 1019 McPhillips St. | 785 St Mary’s Rd | 558 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, MB 

Though the name is slightly different – Superboy instead of Fat Boy – the idea is the same, but the burgers are bigger. Each patty is a gigantic half pound of seasoned Canadian beef. The ever so slightly cumin-tinged chili sauce adds a tiny kick to the patties and Fat Boy essentials – mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese and pickles. Messy but marvellous, Superboys have become a North end neighbourhood favourite that draws aficionados from across town.

Address: 1480 Main St., Winnipeg, MB

Dairi Wip in Saint Boniface, has been slinging juicy Fat Boys since 1958; The restaurant is still family owned and operated. Their menu offers all kinds of configurations of the burger: single Fat Boy, Double Fat boy, veggie Fat Boy, all with fresh, daily made patties and signature chili sauce. If you’re a shoestring potato lover, you’ll love their fries. Seating is limited to picnic tables in the parking lot, and this is a cash only restaurant.

Address: 383 Marion St., Winnipeg, MB


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