Thursday, March 10, 2011


Back in 1956 take away food in Adelaide was judged by which ever fish and chip shop was nearest your home. There was little other choice. But post war immigration was at work and in that year a Greek Barbecue called 'The Barbecue Inn' opened in Hindley street, right in the main city area.
It was new and it was novel. Hell they didnt even serve fish and chips! Tasty steak sandwiches, foreign Chevapvichi sausage and all with tasty salads. The did serve chips, but not in the traditional manner. These were not soft and greasy, they were crisp and tasty. They also did really 'foreign stuff' like grilled Squid…that the Greeks running the place called 'C a l a m a r i'. Wow…Aussies threw them back if they caught them, or used them for bait. Everyone knew they were inedible!
As a young man in Thebarton Barracks I used to go with some of the others on a short bus ride to Hindley street and try some of the steak. In the early days only the steak or the lamb chops. Heck none of that foreign food for us!
Later in the 1960's it was usual for us to at least pop our heads in and say "hello, is everything OK?; while walking the beat. They got to know us. We got to know them.
The place was nearly always crowded and the food was excellent. Famous people ate there while visiting Adelaide. Bob Hope, Sabrina, and other Hollywood stars, as well as famous sporting identities. The walls were eventually lined with autographed photographs.
There were five very pretty Greek girls who served the food and their Mother was a very beautiful woman too. It seemed at times that the whole family were involved, with an older man we called 'grandpa' as well as some other men, and a brother of the pretty girls.
Over the years my wife and I have visited from time to time. The meals are always excellent and served in a very familiar style everyone became used to. The BBQ Inn was there and running before Hindley street ever gained any of its other now numerous and exotic eating or take away food outlets.
So last evening my wife and I were on the Eastern side of town when she surprised me by saying she'd like to go into the main city and eat at the Barbecue Inn. At first I thought it had been knocked down because I could not spot what had once been a premises with people swarming all over the footpath. But she sighted it and directed me back.
Of course it was a Monday evening, so you would not expect it to be terribly busy. None the less it was much less so than I would have expected. The dozens of autographed photographs were gone, but there were instead some showing the original founders and some of the staff.
I recognized one older lady at the counter as being one of those five pretty girls who served there many years ago. She had retained a classic Greek beauty and although now well into her sixties you could see she had once been a most beautiful young woman, who even now carried herself with grace. Everyone else was of course different. The hesitant waiter that served us was, I think, a great grandson of the original people.
The number of people eating in was disappointing, but the food was not. Wonderful thick garlic bread was brought out to us. Crispy crust, but soft juicy garlic butter centre. Then out came the rest, all grilled to perfection, tasty and exuding delicious smells. Arranged around one side of the large plate, were the salads, in just the same order and style I remembered from fifty years earlier. And I swear they were just as crisp and tasty as they always were back then. Although with the years the prices have risen quite high, that is hardly surprising. The property the place stands on must now be worth millions. But in compensation the serves were huge. My wife estimated hers to be triple what she was capable of eating, and later as per their old tradition, they provided her with her left overs in a sealed container to eat another time. (I ate it for dinner this evening)
We learnt from the lovely lady that she was the youngest of the five pretty sisters who had served there when I was a young man. Her mother had passed on since then, but her father lived on as a very elderly gentleman indeed. In his nineties now. The one we used to call 'grandpa' had of course died some years ago, but all the sisters and their brother were still alive, but now retired. Only the youngest sister remained.
It was great to see the 'huge' coke fired barbecue still in operation, the meat laid out in a refrigerated cabinet for all to see, and that the traditions were being held too. The next major competition to the BBQ Inn had not got established until 1964. It was Italian and served fresh pasta. I can still remember the first night one of the patrols came in for a meal in the Watch house mess, and one of them was eating fresh spaghetti bolognese. Some of us crowded around and asked what it was and how come it was not out of a tin. Few of us had ever seen fresh pasta served up.
The lovely Greek lady could remember that premises too and that like most around the BBQ Inn, it had come and gone over the decades.
In the mid 1970's I went into the BBQ Inn after years in the country and up bush, and was greeted with friendly hello's and slaps on the back to welcome me home. They were lovely people and I never ever heard a single complaint about the food, nor the service.
The BBQ Inn is part of Adelaide history and long may it survive.

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