Harry’s Café de Wheels (Sydney, NSW)

Capitol Square
Corner Hay and George Streets
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 9281 6292

Once the lukewarm dumplings had settled in Marty’s stomach, we decided that a late night walk around Sydney’s CBD was in order. We pretty much covered all of Haymarket on foot and subsequently worked up an appetite. Sometime last month, we watched yet another repeat episode of Bizarre Foods on Foxtel. This episode featured Australia (yay) and in one scene, host Andrew Zimmern visits Harry’s in Sydney (presumably the Woolloomooloo one) to gorge on some of Australia’s ‘strangest’ foods. Yeah, like meat pies and pasties are so ‘bizarre’, man. Anyway, since then we’d been eager to try Harry’s supposedly awesome pies and hot dogs. And if there was ever a perfect opportunity to try them, then 1am on a Saturday morning was it.

Established in 1938, a guy called Harry Edwards opened up a caravan near the Woolloomooloo naval dockyard and started serving pies to the hungry masses. Called Harry’s Café de Wheels (because it was a café on wheels, DUH), it attracted everyone from servicemen to cabbies to Colonel Sanders. In the 70s, the business then started serving hot dogs to appease the (presumably hunky) American sailors in town and some even go far to say that the hot dogs at Harry’s are better than the pies. Since then, Harry’s has appeared in the National Trust register and eight more cafes have opened up around Sydney. Not bad, huh?

Zimmern got to enjoy his culinary delights by the bay, but we weren’t so lucky. It was late and all the rats were out. And by ‘rats’, I don’t mean just the club variety; I’m also referring to the rodent ones – yep, we literally saw a rat as big as my dog Vega scurry across an alleyway around the corner from Capitol Square). But just because Haymarket-ers don’t get waterside views, it doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy a hot dog at Harry’s.

Marty ordered a hot dog de wheels ($6.30), Harry’s house special and what we’d probably call their hot dog ‘with the lot.’ The bun encased a continental Viennese smoked frankfurt, chilli con carne, mushy peas, garlic onions, cheese sauce and chilli sauce. To be honest, it was a bit too much for us. While I can understand its popularity, I do believe that a hot dog should be kept simple and if it needed a bit of sprucing up, then a sprinkling of onions, cheese and mustard (‘and sauerkraut,’ added Germanophile Marty despite the fact that he actually doesn’t like sauerkraut, the idiot) should suffice.

The plain hot dog ($4.20) was MUCH better. All it contained was a Viennese smoked frankfurt, a bit of tomato sauce and a squirt of mustard. Simple and fantastic. Unlike the first hot dog, you could actually taste the sausage’s smokiness, too, which made all the difference. There was no need for fancy trimmings; this was BOSS.

We were about to leave but Marty wasn’t going to budge until he tried one of Harry’s famous pies. Sigh, why not. We ordered a tiger pie, another Harry’s signature. We watched the server take out a pie from the warmer, scoop a huge chunk of mashed potato on top using an ice cream scooper before topping it with lots and lots of mushy peas and gravy. It looked pretty epic. Taste-wise, it was alright. While I personally didn’t mind the pies and the mashed potato, I did think there was too much of it so I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I expected.

The plain beef pie, however, got two thumbs up from us. Just give us a simple crusty pie stuffed with a lean beef and gravy filling, top the whole thing with tomato sauce and Bob’s your uncle who did your mum. It may not have been the best pie we had, but it was nevertheless still great – and no doubt it would hit the spot after a hard night at the club better than a greasy kebab would.

Harry’s is a worthy Sydney institution that needs to be visited at least once. For a proper Sydney experience, I’d tell you to go to the Woolloomooloo branch but if you’re in the city and don’t wish to travel too far out, then the Haymarket kiosk would do just fine (just pray that you don’t run into any rats on the way, though!). Our recommendation, however, would be to stick to the simple stuff such as the plain beef pies and hot dogs rather than the house specials – unless you happen to love peas or chilli con carne with your sausage.

Harry's Cafe de Wheels on Urbanspoon

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  1. That tiger pie looks bloody good! Although if I’m gonna travel all the way up there, I’d want the pie and hot dogs to be freakin amazing, since there are so many places to eat around Sydney!

  2. walked past this place a few times and the aroma almost caught my attention. but there something funny about a very busy Japanese restaurant around the corner where the diners sit facing a marine fish tank as their eating sushi. yep, seriously you could see the fish wetting themselves!

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