Harry’s strives to deliver a famously Australian experience with a unique Harry’s touch to every meal. Our products are made with care, and only with the best ingredients. In combination with tradition and innovation, the legacy of Harry’s lives on as it began with Harry ‘The TIGER’ Edwards over 80 years ago in Woolloomooloo, Australia.
THE STORY BEGINS
The story of ‘Harry’s Café de Wheels’ goes back to the depression years of the late 1930s.
With the world on the brink of a devastating war, an enterprising Sydneysider by the name of Harry Edwards opened a caravan café near the front gates of the Woolloomooloo naval dockyard.
Word spread quickly with Harry’s ‘pie n’ peas’ and crumbed sausages soon becoming a popular part of the city’s nightlife – keenly sought by sailors, soldiers, cabbies, starlets and coppers alike. Harry operated the caravan until 1938 when he enlisted in the AIF during WWII.
During Harry’s time in the Middle East, he was nicknamed “Tiger” due to his boxing prowess and the name stuck. Upon his return in 1945, Harry realised that Sydney hadn’t changed much and it was still almost impossible to get a good feed late-night, so he reopened and the caravan has been operating continuously since.
The phrase ‘Café de Wheels’ came about as the city council of the day insisted that mobile food caravans move a minimum of 12 inches a day. Harry dutifully obeyed and thus the name was expanded to Harry’s Café de Wheels. Before the councils ruling, the caravan was known simply as ‘Harry’s.’
When its wheels went missing one night, local wags coined the nickname ‘Café de Axle.’ Harry operated the caravan for a further 30 years before selling the business to Alex Kuronya in 1975.
It was perhaps Harry’s finest moment in 1978, when Rear Admiral David Martin – over a pie and glass of Champagne – commissioned the caravan as “HMAS Harry’s”.
In 1974, chicken king, 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.
Elton John has also been a visitor to Harry’s over the years and held a press conference from inside Harry’s during the 1970s.
Alex was getting on in years and the business had fallen on hard times. In 1988 on Australia Day Michael Hannah, made Alex an offer to purchase the business, which Alex accepted.
Michael was the first Australian born owner of Harry’s and as a child his father, a Sydney cabbie, would take him and his siblings down to the ‘Loo for a pie at Harry’s. In 1970, Michael returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam and his first stop after disembarking the HMAS Sydney was of course Harry’s. It would be another 17 years until Michael purchased the business.
As the years have passed, Harry’s has become a ‘must’ for visiting celebrities. Harry’s has served up the likes of Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, Marelene Dietrich, Kerry Packer and more recently, Sir Richard Branson, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Brook Shields, Pat Rafter, Olivia Newton-John, Jerry Lewis, Billy Crystal, Pamela Anderson, Sara O’Hare, Lachlan Murdoch, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Adrian Greiner, Anthony Bourdain and Peter Blakely.
In December 2004, Harry’s was classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and included on its Register. According to the National Trust of Australia, Harry’s is a “quintessential Sydney icon” and in the Trust’s opinion, falls within the following definition:
“Those places which are components of the natural or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific, or social significance or other special value for future generations, as well as for the present community.”
In 2004, the opening of the Haymarket store saw the conversion of a National Trust building to the current Harry’s Café de Wheels Chinatown.
And then there’s the album . . . in 1990, Peter Blakely released his debut album ‘Harry’s Café de Wheels’ which went platinum.
Harry’s has become so popular with the celebrities that in 1991, Rupert Murdoch had pies shipped to Los Angeles for an Australian themed Oscar’s party. But you definitely don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy Harry’s, just hungry. Since its initial opening in the 1930s, Harry’s has withstood the test of time.
A trip to Harry’s lets you enjoy authentic Aussie tucker while taking a trip back through Harry’s history.
In 1998 the first Harry’s franchise opened in Newcastle. The café is in fact an original tram, Tram #1892, that in its heyday, operated between Sydney and Bondi. It was left in a paddock at Rutherford, NSW before being completely refurbished by the Tramways Museum at Loftus in Sydney.
In February 2007 Harry’s opened the second Franchise at the Orange Grove Supercentre at Liverpool.
The Virgin Pie Eating Competition at Harry's Cafe De Wheels was a highlight in July 2008.
Foxtel’s Charlotte Dawson beat off her younger TV rival from Nickelodeon Kyle Linehan in the Virgin Mobile Celebrity food fight. Dawson downed her pie-and-mushy-pea dish in record time, during a promo for the phone carrier's "All You Can Eat" campaign. Rob Cregan won the overall pie eating competition.
In 2010 the Tempe and Parramatta Franchises opened.
Tempe took over the old Denos Diner site on the Princes Hwy and opened its doors in August 2010. It was previously the Cobb & Co Drive in Restaurant.
In March 2012 the cast of American Pie 4: Reunion chose Harry’s for the release of the movie
In July 2012 Harry’s Burwood and Penrith Franchises opened in the same week. Before Harry’s Burwood was opened it was the old site of Laziko International Café and previously a KFC. The Penrith outlet was opened adjacent to the Penrith Panthers Leagues Club.
Harry’s provided some catering for the Garth Wood Fight Night at All Sorts Boxing. A great night was had by all!
We also had the pleasure of a visit from the NSW Waratahs Team!
2014 was a big year for Harrys Café De Wheels.
Our Wooloomooloo location was featured in a Samsung ad and the popular television series ‘The Bachelor’ filmed an episode around a date night at Harrys which resulted in worldwide press coverage.