Category Archives: fast food

Orion Cafe/H&R Block – Gosford, NSW

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Gosford. It’s unfair to liken the city to a brain-dead coma patient, but I’m going to do it anyway. The body functions, but there’s no drive, no spirit, no passion. One might even go so far as to call Gosford the zombie of the Central Coast.

If I’m being too harsh, it’s only because it’s so heartbreaking to see that main strip and what it’s become, and all the promise that lies underneath. Even something as simple as a cold drink on a hot day is too much for Gosford to provide, so depleted are its refreshment options.

One might look up and spy the Orion Cafe, only to return to thirsty disappointment when the shop underneath hosts a tattoo parlour, a beauty salon, or more likely, nothing at all. It’s the way of Gosford’s Mann Street.

The problem is you’re 87 years too late. In 1926, the Diacopoulos family – renowned in Gosford for their cafes – opened another success story at this address. The Orion quickly became “Gosford’s leading sundae shop and refreshment rooms”. Imagine such a thing today. You can’t.

The Orion was just one of many cafes and eateries maintained by the Diacopouloses (Diacopouli?), brothers Peter, Nick and Angelo. The brothers themselves have long since passed away, with Angelo, the last surviving sibling, passing away in Sydney in 1995 aged 94.

These days, all that remains of the Orion Cafe is the sign atop the shell that once housed Rotary meetings, dispensed hand-dipped chocolates and served up delicious milkshakes and sundaes. Tax accountants, ever a fun vacuum, have taken up in the neighbouring shop, condemning the Orion to a lifetime as just another old relic on Mann Street.

Pizza Hut/Moo-ers Steakhouse/For Lease – Long Jetty, NSW

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When someone or something beloved is replaced, it’s not unusual for the usurper to find itself under fire, the subject of blistering scorn (and never moreso than right here on this blog). In the case of Moo-ers, a steakhouse up near The Entrance, it seemed like they picked the wrong shoes to fill.

In 2008, Moo-ers maa-nagement became concerned about the quality of meat they were receiving; hogget and mutton were being misrepresented as lamb, yearling as veal. The definition of beef cuts was being stretched by local suppliers; a shipment claiming to include sirloin, porterhouse and striploin cuts would be found to contain nothing but the one generic cut of beef.  I wonder if this was happening with their seafood as well: shrimp instead of prawns, carp instead of everything else.

Moo-ers raised the issue with the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee (SRARAATC *ahem* excuse me), hoping for tighter naming guidelines for meat. With most of their menu being meat, any substitution or downgrade in quality was hurting the Moo-ers brand.

Was anything ever done? Was the integrity of the Moo-ers menu salvaged? To answer those questions, cast your eyes upwards to the picture. Notice anything…for lease? My expert guess is that Moo-ers’ shipments of generic meat was in keeping with what the previous tenants had received. I mean seriously, if you can tell me what kind of “meat” the Pizza Hut “ground beef” is meant to be, then congratulations – there may be a spot for you on the SRARAATC.

Pizza Hut/Salvation Army – Liverpool, NSW

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If there’s one goal that’s proven consistently hard to achieve, it’s covering up an eat-in Pizza Hut. There seem to be two typical approaches: the first is to make a genuine effort to alter the building and hope no one recognises. It doesn’t always work. The second is to just embrace the hallmarks of the former tenant wholeheartedly, and who better to breathe new life into someone’s sloppy seconds than the Salvos?

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Inside, if you can look past the piles of instructional golf videos and copious amounts of Fifty Shades of Grey, it isn’t hard to spot the former Hut infrastructure that hasn’t already been sold off. Heck, someone probably walked away with the original oven for a bargain price, and I’m kicking myself right now that it wasn’t me.

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Even the toilets have been put to a more hygienic use (but not by much) as change rooms. And no, I would not count among the highlights of my blogging career standing in the middle of a Salvation Army and taking a photo of its change rooms. It’s all for you, Damien.

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When my generation returns to the earth and Pizza Hut’s eat-in legacy is forgotten, will people wonder why these buildings look so odd? Probably not.

Past/Lives Flashback #5: The Hartee’s Saga, Part V: Hartee’s Revenge – Manly Vale, NSW

Original articles: The Hartee’s Saga Parts I, II, III and IV 

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Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good burger down. For those who haven’t followed the long, sad story of the Hartee’s hamburger franchise, here’s a quick recap.

Hartee's Earlwood

Hartee’s Earlwood

With the advent of American fast food franchises in Australia in the late 60s and early 70s, Kelloggs teamed with the US-based Hardees burger chain to start Hartee’s, the first Australian fast food restaurant (despite its very red white and blue beginnings).

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Hartee’s Canterbury.

It was a near-instant success. Whether it was down to underlying xenophobia towards overseas brand names, smart management or just plain delicious burgers, by 1973 Hartee’s was king of the fast food hill in Australia.

Hartee's Punchbowl.

Hartee’s Punchbowl.

Complacency became the daily special from then on, with a series of extravagant HQ upgrades and new outlets sprouting like weeds all over Sydney. Despite this, the chain was beginning to haemorrhage cash at a pretty severe rate, and McDonald’s was aggressively making major headway into the Australian scene. Something had to give.

Hartee's Bankstown.

Hartee’s Bankstown. Not pictured: the Pal delivery truck.

And give it did, here at the Bankstown Hartee’s in 1975, when a current affairs program, acting on a tip-off, exposed the outlet as having served dog food in burgers. Overnight, Hartee’s packed up and disappeared, leaving only husks behind, and that’s where the story seems to end.

Except thanks to reader Phil, there’s a final piece of the puzzle to be put in place. I’d previously written that only the four former Hartee’s above still existed in any form around Sydney… Well, we all make mistakes. Just ask Bankstown Hartee’s.

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Behold, the Manly Vale Hartee’s still stands. It’s currently Gilmour’s Comfort Shoes, but it pretty obviously fits in with the Hartee design.

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In fact, this may be the most well-preserved Hartee’s still in existence. The Gilmour’s sign appears to be stuck on over the red roof, so it’s possible the Hartee’s logo remains underneath.

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The original lights are still in place, designed to illuminate the Hartee’s name. Also still in place, as per Phil’s advice…

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The original outdoor seating area! Now it’s presumably the shoe shop manager’s car park (c’mon, look at the prestige offered by that strange piece of land). Inside are just shoes, but really, they’ve served worse and called it burgers.

It’s not really a happy ending, or an ending at all, but it is (I’m guessing) the final footnote on what by now must be the most definitive account of the Hartee’s affair out there. There are still many mysteries surrounding the story (truly, more questions are raised than answered), but maybe one day one of those faceless, guilt-ridden Hartee’s executives will come out of hiding and reveal more. Hell, I’d even settle for the guy who served the dog food. As ever, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know. And RIP Hartee’s – we hartlee knew ye.

In the meantime, let’s take a minute to remember those four powerful words that watered more mouths than Mount Franklin, that were a city’s guilty pleasure in a time before Big Macs and Whoppers…in a time when a nation could feed itself.

Hartee's Kogarah, November 1973. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Hartee’s Kogarah, November 1973. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Past/Lives Flashback #9: Hire One – Hurstville, NSW

Original article: Homestead Golden Fried Chicken/Kentucky Fried Chicken/Hire One – Hurstville, NSW

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One of the most interesting aspects of revisiting these places one year on is discovering whether history has repeated itself. As you’ll no doubt recall, this location was formerly the fondly-remembered Homestead Golden Fried Chicken and later KFC, until an outbreak of stupidity and negligence caused its closure. Oh, you need a refresher? Hope you haven’t just eaten:

The Leader, August 6 2009.

The Leader, August 6 2009.

Hire One was quick to jump in and seize the reins of that deep fried legacy…

Alas, one won’t be hiring anything anymore at this husk. Hire One was apparently absorbed into the Kennards empire, the coffers of which were deep enough to break the lease and free up the site for a potential Homestead comeback. Or perhaps given the sordid history of the site, a Hartee’s comeback is more likely.

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Allied with the powerful Captain Hindsight, Cerno agent Donovan Moodie wisely buried ‘restaurant’ deep within the list of potential usages. Note that first part: “Previously successful Hire One plant hire business”. No mention of the hapless KFC, which is probably the building’s longest tenant (and certainly the least hygienic).

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But there’s no need to mention it; the eerie visage of the Colonel hangs over the place like a bespectacled ghost. Look closely and you can still see him smiling, just as he did after each Hire One customer walked out with their temporary cement mixers. I hope you washed your hands…