Harry’s Cafe de Wheels is a Sydney institution that started on a fateful day in 1938 near the front gate of the Wolloomooloo naval dockyard. It actually has some pretty cool history for a variety of things like how they came up with the name ‘Tiger pie’ (based on the owner being a great boxer) but I won’t go into that too much since it’s all on the website anyway.
Harry’s is probably the one place where I’ve eaten and thought ‘if for whatever reason I end up spending a lot of my time writing words about food one day, then I really want to write words about you, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.’ So it’s with great joy that I’m able to do this today since it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. There’s something about being able to get a meat pie at midnight that’s unmistakably Australian and it’s something I’ve always appreciated since no one else seems willing to brave some of those cold winters nights to support people who just plain love eating food at all times of the night. Except kebab joints, wonderful, wonderful kebab joints.
Anyway, back when I was growing up, Harry’s was always a place I loved going to, but it wasn’t a place that I went too often, purely because it was just so far away from my house and a complete pain to get to. Thankfully, during my exile in Canberra, Harry’s answered my prayers and opened up a store in Liverpool, which means I can get Harry’s every time I head back to Canberra now. I think my heart hates me for it because there is also a giant Krispy Kreme next to the Harry’s in Liverpool and I always end up getting a crapload of donuts every time I go there as well.
Wow. When I read over that I realise I’m just really unhealthy.
Anyway, here’s some pies and dogs.
First up we have the classic, the famous Tiger pie ($7.20). This has been voted as Sydney’s best pie and to be honest it’s extremely hard to argue with that. It’s a classic lean beef pie topped with mash potato, mushy peas and gravy. One cool little feature of the tiger pie is that the crew at Harry’s make a little dimple in the peas before they pour the gravy over the top. This ensures that whilst this is still fairly impossible to eat like a normal pie (that is, you must knife and fork this thing), it does make it considerably less messy to eat, and it make you feel fuzzy to know that the staff at Harry’s have your best interests at heart.
The pie itself is pretty standard, nothing gourmet about it, but you can probably tell from the above picture that it’s under no illusions of trying to be either. The crust is crispy and the meat inside is a really high quality beef, though it can get a little dry for me sometimes. One thing that I do to combat this, and I do this every time I eat a tiger pie now; I’ll use the knife and fork to poke a hole in the top of the pie, scoop some guts out, and then start mixing gravy and peas in the carved out pie carcass. It’s pretty fantastic, and I’ve never seen anyone do it so I’m going to try and patent that or something.
I’m not going to go into how the textures play off each other or anything because I figure if you can’t imagine how a meat pie with mashed potato on top of it would taste, then I doubt some words on a screen will help you. You know what will though? Going to any of their many locations and grabbing one of these. You likely won’t regret it, and once you do, you’ll be able to say you’ve had a Tiger pie from Harry’s. I’m pretty sure somewhere out there, there’s a list of things you must do as a Sydneysider. Getting a picture taken looking over your back while you look over Bondi Beach is probably on it, and trying a Tiger pie from Harry’s should probably be there too.
Secondly, we have the Harry’s Hot Dog de Wheels ($6.50). First off, forgive us if the prices are kind of wrong, we forgot to take a picture of the menu board and the website doesn’t seem to list prices so we’re going off memory here. It’s close though.
The Harry’s Hot Dog de Wheels is Harry’s premier hot dog and is actually my absolutely favourite number one item to get there, just edging out the Tiger pie. I love pies as much as the next guy but this? Look at it! A fantastic wiener, with a big helping of chilli con carne, garlic onions, mushy peas, topped with a swirl of cheese sauce and to top all of that off, a big straight line of chilli sauce.
Everything about this hot dog is pretty fantastic, and again, I should mention that this is not a gourmet dog or anything, nor is it trying to be. It’s a hearty, homely hot dog and if you’re only interested in the kinds of dogs you get outside of the Grounds on Saturday morning, then you may be a bit disappointed. The dog itself is a straight up American style skinless frank, nothing too flashy, but in my opinion these dogs work best with chilli con carne anyway because they’re not trying to overpower things with too much herbs and spices.
One thing I feel I should mention is how big this thing is! It’s filling! I’ve made the mistake in the past of planning a big Sydney food trip and setting up Harry’s Cafe de Wheels as a pre-lunch snack. As you all know, on a food trip the biggest concern is how can you eat at all the places you want to and still keep that precious, precious stomach space. Don’t make the same mistake I did, the hot dog here is big and it deserves to be straight up lunch.
In conclusion, Harry’s is pretty great. It’s not gourmet and it’s not hipster (almost went a whole post without saying that word), but it’s filling, hearty and fantastically homely. One of my favourite places in Sydney and a great place to grab a quick, cheap feed.
Harry’s Cafe de Wheels
Shop 1/20 Orange Grove Road, Liverpool
Sunday to Thursday
9:00am to 11:00pm
Friday to Saturday