Operating since 1860's - The original home of our famous and now South Australian's icon, the Pie Floater            
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updated 24th October 2014


The Pie Carts:

Adelaide pie carts have been around since 1860s, but there is some conflicting information out there.  The pie cart is still tempting not-so-fussy eaters into the wee small hours of the morning.  The cart is most famous for it's Pie Floater - a meat pie turned upside down in a bowl of green pea soup and topped with a lavish dollop of tomato sauce.

The pie carts were a much part of the Adelaide scene as "Light's Vision" or the Glenelg Tram.  An English ex-sailor called Gibbs opened the very first one (according to sources, however, this is incorrect, it was the second one to open in Adelaide, the first one opened two weeks earlier at the GPO on Franklin Street.).  Anyhow, he opened his pie stall in 1864 on the corner of King William Road and Rundle Street.  Looking to cater to workers in search of wholesome, but inexpensive meal.  This area got nicknamed "The Bee Hive" now known as "Beehive Corner".  This nickname is still used today and is written on the "Haigh's Building" as we know it as.  I believe it was nicknamed because it was the most visited corner and more people would meet at this one spot in Adelaide.  Due to many reasons, the local shopping area, eating places and possibility that it was the part of the main street that had things around it for workers etc.  Now Beehive Corner is part of the main shopping area in Adelaide:  Rundle Mall.


                 The Bee Hive ca. 1873                                   Beehive Corner - today                          

Obviously, the site is not as busy as it is now a day.  Today it's probably the most trafficked street corner in Adelaide, but the last place you want to stand around eating a pie.  

Pie-carts are typically a form of caravan / trailer / cart, (originally horse-drawn or food vending trolleys), with an elongated "window" along one or both sides where customers stand to eat their purchases. 

The pie-cart was typically moved into position at lunch time (unsure of this) and in the evening. As traffic became busier and on-street car-parking in demand, the carts evolved to have one window on "the footpath side", and were moved into position after afternoon peak-hour traffic had ebbed. They do business until late-evening or early-morning, after which they were returned to their daytime storage locations. South Australia has had pie carts in the Adelaide metropolitan area since the 1860s. In the evenings, the Norwood pie-cart was located on The Parade adjacent to the Norwood Town Hall. It was also the only place where members of the public could buy draft Hall's "Stonie" Ginger Beer directly from the keg.

In the Adelaide city centre in the 1880s, there were 13 pie-carts operating in King William Street and North Terrace. By 1915 there were only nine pie carts in Adelaide, but by 1958 only two remained.   They were Cowley's Pie Cart outside the GPO on Franklin Street, once claimed as the oldest still existing in Australia, and the Balfour's Pie Cart, outside the historic Adelaide Railway Station.  When, in 2007, the Glenelg Tramline was extended from Victoria Square along King William Street and North Terrace past the Adelaide Railway Station, the Balfour's pie-cart was forced to close (unsure about this as the Adelaide Casino owned the Pie Cart at this stage.)  Adelaide Casino kindly donate the now famous Pie Cart to an historical group for preservation. 

Today, there is only one remaining, the GPO on Franklin Street.  In 2007 the Franklin Street pie cart was bought by Gumleaf Bakery and in April 2008, it was taken off the road to get a fresh new look inside and to keep up with the standards and modern requirements.  Previously, just serving instant coffee, very limited selection of pies, pasties and cakes, oh and course our famous icon - Pie Floaters.  Now fitted throughout with stainless steel with modern equipment such as a coffee machine, deep fryer, bain marie, multiple refrigerators, microwave, new pie warmer, and so on.  However, the return would have been in December 2008, but some issues had to be sorted out with the Adelaide City Council and the owner that caused the delay.  A special thanks a certain councillor who in the end got the ball rolling as they say.  

The business component is managed and owned by Rina, who has been trying to get the pie cart back to Adelaide's streets for the last 7 months.  The premises (cart and truck) is still owned by Gumleaf Bakery, who will continue to supply their pies, pasties, cakes etc to the business.  

This pie cart in Franklin Street has been recorded by the National Trust as the longest-serving eating venue in the state.  A study of food carts has also been undertaken in central Melbourne.  None of the other food carts within the City of Sydney have such a recognisable identity, nor the continuity of occupancy.  There is now also a well known version of the pie floater in Sydney is sold from Harry's Cafe de Wheels situated in Woolloomooloo, New South Wales, with a similarly recognisable neon sign.
  Harry's Cafe de Wheels is listed on the National Trust Register as an historic icon. Originally set near the graving docks (now Australian Naval Dockyards known as 'Garden Island Naval Base' Woolloomooloo), east of the Sydney Opera House, the current Cafe de Wheels has been permanently fixed on a masonry base for some years. Other Harry's Cafe de Wheels operate in the Sydney city and metropolitan area, and in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales.

Unlike the other pie carts around Australia, this is probably the only business from it's beginning in 1860's that has sold it's own made pies and pasties etc. 

The pie cart, for me, sums up all that is democratic and egalitarian about Australia.  It has become a meeting place where cabbies, policemen, and other workers rubbed shoulders with theatre patrons in formal evening wear, musicians, politicians, businessmen and of course the tourists to our beautiful city.


Most of the pie carts in our beautiful city (past and present) have had changed hands many times over and over.  I do not have full details of each pie cart or who owned them and when they owned them.  I might have missed a few owners here and there but I do not have access to records as there seems to be very limited in the many places I have looked.  I will continue to try and find out more information in the future.


If anyone has any information on the pie floater or even on the Adelaide Pie Carts, please contact me.  Click Here
Also, if any of the information is incorrect, please email me with the correct details and where they were sourced.

updated 24th October 2014



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