Nestled beside Sydney’s Garden Island Naval Base, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels is arguably Australia’s most famous and long-serving pie cart. A star of film and TV; featured globally in magazines and travel reports and now classified by the NSW National Trust, Harry’s has grown from the original van to become a booming business, with seven additional outlets in Sydney and one in Newcastle.
According to Wikipedia, Harry "Tiger" Edwards opened the original caravan cafe, simply named Harry's, near the gates of the Garden Island Naval Dockyard in 1938. He served with the AIF in World War II, during which time the cafe was not operational. The cart re-opened upon his return from the war in 1945.
The name Cafe de Wheels came about because of the requirement from the City Council that mobile food caravans had to move a minimum of 12 inches (30 cm) each day. The cart has been moved to various locations on Cowper Wharf road over the last 70 years, mostly due to re-development work in the Woolloomooloo Bay area. Local legend tells that the name was temporarily changed to Cafe de Axle at one point when the wheels were stolen and it was referred to as Harry the Axle's for most of the sixties.
As the years passed, 'Harry's Cafe de Wheels' gained new fame as a tourist attraction. A visit to the caravan became a 'must' for visiting celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum and Marlene Dietrich. In 1974, Colonel Sanders stopped at Harry's and enjoyed the food so much that he ate three 'pies and peas' while leaning on his walking stick in front of the caravan. A picture of Sanders taken during the visit still hangs in the caravan today.
When You’re On A Good Thing...
The menu hasn’t changed much at Harry’s over the years, although hotdogs were introduced in to appease the influx of American serviceman on R&R during the Vietnam War. And it’s a hotdog that is the subject of this story, but not just any hotdog...
A Harry’s hotdog with peas and chilli sauce is a favourite I’ve been scoffing at every opportunity since being introduced to it in 1989. Cradled in a huge pillowy-soft bun, the super-sized hotdog nestles atop a bed of steaming mushy peas, caressed by carefully drizzled but seriously hot chilli sauce. Oh yum! Harry’s pies, pasties, sausage rolls, egg and bacon rolls and other delights are good too – apparently – although to be honest I can never forsake my first true love.
The Harbour-side Cafe de Wheels is open 24/7 and it’s harbourside location is a beauty. So too is the amazing collection of memorabilia that adorn the walls. Parking close by is a possibility, but certainly not a given. But no matter. Even if you have to catch a cab, bus or walk, be sure to visit Harry’s next time you’re in Sydney. You can also check out the other Harry’s locations at www.harryscafedewheels.com.au.
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels
Corner Cowper Wharf Rd & Dowling St
Woolloomooloo, NSW. 2011.
Tel: (02) 9357 3074
Find it on Google Maps here!
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