Starving stomachs squirm and squelch beneath the suits and skirts, and in a hunger-educed migration, weekday workers leave their office swivel chairs and spreadsheets in search of something to fill their bellies. The people of Adelaide’s business district click-clack their way towards lunch. In streets near by couples banter as they, with a sense of urgency, reverse parallel park their roughed up cars. Shoppers scurry and scamper, flinging string-handled bags over their shoulders and tucking handbags under their arms as they maneuver through the pedestrian crossing, ever conscious of the flashing red man, and the drivers staring them down as they flit in front of the pulled up cars. Why the hurry? They’ve each got a date with Pearl.
Nestled in the bosom of Adelaide’s CBD, you’ll find a grungy truck with a sweetheart name. Sitting stocky, solid, and square the truck wears a black get-up, with a smattering of primary-coloured graffiti art tattooed on it like a sleeve on a man you wouldn’t take home to meet your mum. But don’t be deceived by her quirky appearance; Pearl, the Burger Theory truck, is a find – a real gem. Today Pearl is parked in Hindmarsh Square and the burger boys and girls are feeding the Adelaide masses.
We’re at the corner where Pirie meets Pultney. Lucky for us there’s not a huge line up just yet and there’s a few free park benches that will, hopefully, still be free once we’ve placed our order. Across the square, the Nova van has set up a tent of sorts, with bongos, congos, or some sort of make-shift saucepan drum kit. Whatever the percussion instrument, the noise is tribal. It’s feeding time in the square, and with the jungly tom-toms resonating over traffic and the plume of smoke sauntering out the door of the food truck, you could close your eyes, smell the smolder, click your Birkenstocks three times and be at WOMAD.
Order placed, and with beeping device in hand, we settle ourselves on a bench, eagerly waiting the buzz that tells us our burgers are ready. Ahead of us is baby-spinach-green-coloured grass, with suits and skirts scattered on it like human confetti. On this unseasonably warm day, the usual black slacks and white shirt combo is happily broken by the odd floral sundress fanned out on the grass, and ladies with jewel-coloured high-waisted skirts sitting with their legs bent underneath them. Above, the trees have been burnished by the autumn elements to the halfway mark where their leaves are no longer green, but not yet burnt and crunchy. And as the cars and buses whir on past, what a glorious sensation it is to be in the heart of the city yet playing picnic in the parkland.
Having fetched the burgers, we wriggle our butts back into the bench and separate, making space for ‘eating elbows’ and drinks. There is nothing lady-like about downing a burger. It’s an exercise in fumbly fingers and slurping up dribbles. But here, in the park, we’re all in the same messy boat. And there’s no limit to how grubby I’d get for a burger like this – meat that dissolves on your tongue, juicy tomato, and a delightful cloud-like bun. The Burger Theory menu is limited, but the quality is not. There are two burger options on offer, and this makes me swoon. Why? Because I’d rather eat somewhere that serves two items that are dead-set amazing, than have ten mediocre burgers to choose from that, I don’t know, all start with ‘Mc’ and end with a heart attack.
The people just keep coming. For the hour we sit and watch, a constant crew mill around the truck, either waiting to order or waiting for pick-up. A fresh-faced gal, with office wear, wanders past us through the square, clutching a purchased salad showcased in a plastic container. She obviously didn’t get the memo. But having witnessed the happiness in Hindmarsh Square, I bet my burger she’ll be back.
The more Burger Theory move around, the more of Adelaide we all see. And yes, some days the experience is going to be tribal, but other days it’s carnival in the East End, or it’s juggling an armful of textbooks on North Tce, or it’s comfort food in the midst of a miserable day. Maybe it’s grabbing a quick bite in between meetings, or a loved-up picnic in the park with your sweetie, or a gaggle of giggly girls simply relishing the coolness of buying food from a freakin’ truck. Even if you’re eating alone, you’ll never be lonely grabbing a bite from Burger Theory. There are always folk splayed across the grass, the pavement, and any available seating area, and there’s a spirit of joyousness, because biting into that thing, savouring the buttery brioche-y bun and melting meat, you can’t help but be content.
With satisfied stomachs, the suits and skirts return to their swiveling chairs in their square buildings, and the sundresses return to the shops. Others hop in their cars, and turning the steering wheel with sticky fingers, get going to wherever it is they’re going. The Burger Theory truck will pack up only to park elsewhere tomorrow. In that place, somewhere in this sweet city, they’ll prepare and sell their wares. And those wares? Mother of Pearl, they’re heaps good.