FAR NORTH FEED
Andy’s Roadhouse, near Ingham in far north Queensland, is a welcome return to the days of tasty old-style truck stop food and hospitality. And it even has its own resident country band. Matt Wood pays a visit
TRUCKING IN far north Queensland has its own unique challenges – a major one being the Bruce Highway. Depending on the time of year, the Bruce is often clogged with winter tourists, cane traffic or seemingly endless road works.
So popping into Andy’s Roadhouse just south of Ingham makes for a welcome break to the highway hurly-burly if you’re after an old-school roadhouse away from the fast food restaurants and fluoro lights.
We caught up with Andy Barra for a yarn recently, something that clearly comes naturally for the Ingham native. Though it was a little hard to grab his attention for a little while after a van packed with nubile female backpackers pulled into the servo!
Andy lives on site and the roadhouse has been operating since the early 1980s. There’s no bain-marie so all meals are cooked to order from fresh ingredients.
Drivers we spoke to on the road north gave the roadhouse the thumbs up for food. One even reckoned that “I haven’t had a meal like that since Mum died”.
The sprawling site has heaps of room for parking trucks and trailers, and there’s a highflow diesel bowser easily accessible as well. A weighbridge is also available for those wanting to weigh their mangoes.
Showers, tea and coffee are free for truck drivers and there are also air-conditioned dongas available for a cool stay away from the truck in the summer or when waiting for a load.
One unusual feature of the place is the stage setup out back. Andy is the lead singer of his country cover group The Roadhouse Band. On Thursday nights and on weekends Andy struts his stuff with classics from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers and even good ol’ Slim.
North Queensland pollie Bob Katter has even been pulled up onto the roadhouse stage.
Over the decades, Andy has built up a solid relationship with regulars and even showies travelling through town. He’s seen plenty of strange sights as well, but the one that takes the cake for him is the day that a low loader rolled into the yard with a fully grown elephant standing on the deck.
The story goes that the circus truck had broken down so other means of transport had to be adopted.
“I doubt they would have tried it with a lion!” Andy laughs.
Out the back, Andy and two of his sons run a contracting business with a mobile crane, a backhoe and two floats in the shed that, along with the roadhouse, keeps them busy enough.
In fact, while we’re chatting, Andy’s faded old red R-Model Mack rolls into the yard, fresh from a job. The truck, like its owner, is colourful and full of character and rolls to a stop in a cloud of dust. The whole place has an old-school vibe that is fast disappearing from Australian highways and byways.
By the time you read this, the road works out front will have been finished and Andy will even have a flash new asphalt forecourt. It’ll be an easy swing in off the road for some homestyle food. You may even get yakking. I did!
There’s even a weighbridge if you need it
The stage is set for The Roadhouse Band’s Thursday night gig
Andy Barra has owned and run the roadhouse since the early 1980s