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

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

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

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