More than a pie cart, the venerable establishment known as Harry's Cafe de Wheels is a unique piece of Sydney's history, and the stuff of legend and myth. Originally known simply as Harry's, one story states that it became a 'Cafe de Wheels' due to a council regulation that mobile food vans had to move a minimum one foot per day. With customers' cars often crowding the entrance to Garden Island, Harry's was a thorn in the side of the Navy for years.
Harry's typically Australian fast food, especially his classic pie 'n' pea floaters, captured the public's imagination and made the Cafe de Wheels a unique part of the city's nightlife. It attracted blue collar workers, sailors, taxi drivers and late night revellers from Kings Cross. It even became a tourist attraction. International celebrity visitors included Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Ray, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Mitchum, Shirley Maclaine, Phyllis Diller, Colonel Sanders and Elton John. Local supporters included John Laws, Mike Walsh, Kerry Packer and Olivia Newton-John. Despite this glamorous patronage, Harry's maintained an egalitarian reputation. Musicians, streetwalkers, dancers, policemen and bookmakers could be seen late at night devouring meat pies, hot dogs and crumbed sausages alongside judges, politicians and society's well-to-do. With its romantic location between the 'Loo and the Cross, Harry's was a meeting place where social classes intersected. It represented something quintessential about the personality of Sydney.
Alex Kuronya, who operated Harry's Cafe from 1975 and donated this superseded van to the Museum in 1985, was a Hungarian-born refugee from Austria who arrived in 1950. He maintained the traditions of Harry's Cafe de Wheels and even answered to the name Harry. He was known to greet customers with a friendly 'Hi ya handsome, what'll it be tonight?'
Revitalised under the ownership of Michael Hannah, who acquired the business in 1988, Harry's Cafe de Wheels remains a famous Sydney landmark that continues to flourish at Woolloomooloo, selling the same style of cuisine that made it famous. The food is now supplied by Hannah's Pies, whose bakery outlet is located next to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo.