22,682 Nights Serving Burgers and Counting
All Photos taken by the talented Bill Mehana
22,682. That’s the number of nights that the White lady Food Truck has been open for important burger business on the streets of Auckland City.
The White Lady Food truck or “pie cart” as its affectionately known has been serving the faithful, ravenous and occasionally intoxicated Auckland late night revelers for over 60 years, as the hand scribed whiteboard informs me as I shimmy up to the counter to place my order. That’s over 22,682 nights.
The White Lady is a 15 meter long ivory coloured food caravan that currently sits on the corner of Commerce and Fort Street in the heart of Auckland’s business and bar district in New Zealand. It gets towed to location in the evening by tractor and is adorned with fairy lights for atmospheric dining. Just pull up a milk crate, squirt on some tomato sauce and you have late night dining at its most grand.
Any Aucklander worth their weight has acquired a burger or toastie from the Lady.
My parents, when they were courting would order a burger and share it between the two them, and when 88 and I were dating, we would stop by after a couple of bottles of wine and order a ‘King burger’ for him and an ‘Egg burger’ for me. Hanging around the lady whilst you waited for your order to be cooked was always fun as you were bound to run into someone you know.
On this chilly Sunday night in the middle of a New Zealand winter, myself and my dining companions arrive at our destination shortly after 9pm. Already the lady has been serving burgers since 6pm Friday night with its 24hour a day policy on weekends. Weeknights has the lady cooking up patties from 6pm to 5am the next morning, before the tractor arrives to tow it back to base to make way for weekday parking needs of a bustling business district.
The accommodating young man with the low riding beanie in charge of the grill tonight is friendly and helpful as he talks me through our menu options for the day.
“I’ll have an Egg burger ( no surprises there) an Old fashioned Burger, The King Burger, and a side of chips.” And to keep the experience as authentic as possible… ” You better throw in 3 cans of L&P as well my good man”.
The burgers here are meaty and filling, with pickled beetroot, ice berg lettuce, chunky tomato, homemade sauce and bespoke burger buns topped with sesame seeds. If you order a burger with onions, the onions are cooked in wholesome meat grease and a side of chips can be sloshed with your choice of vinegar or tomato sauce.
Burgers range from $7.00 for the standard burger to $18.00 for the behemoth Aucklander Burger, which consists of pretty much everything you can think of! An unlockable jaw is required if you plan to undertake this 6 course meal in a bun.
Once our order has been registered with the chef de cuisine, we gravitate towards the best seats in the house ~ 3 over turned milk crates up against a shop window. The pace and the atmosphere of the lady begins to pick up as suits and ties alongside slurring young men and giggling scantily dressed young ladies arrive at this desert oasis.
Despite his sudden surge in occupation, our server and chief burger maker still manages to get our burgers to us in less than 5 minutes ~ wrapped in paper and looking food photography ready.
I stop for a moment and breathe in the atmosphere before devouring my burger with nostalgic delight. All manners are thrown out the window as we chomp and chat to each other, reminiscing about people we had meet here, burgers we’ve eaten and nights we’ve danced our cares away. A few chips smothered in tomato sauce and a sip or two of fizzy L&P and our night is complete.
My pick of the menu du jour ~ you have to try the Old Fashioned Burger. It consists of an overly tasty beef pattie, well grilled and served with a mattress of crispy lettuce, thick slices of tomato, pickled beetroot and a fried chooks egg , slathered in a delicious relish that adds a wonderful acidic kick to the quivering mound. The relish is delectable and I elegantly lick my fingers between every huge bite.
The white lady still lives up to expectations. Even more so thanks to a recent menu overhaul where for the first time in 60 years you can now get a side of fries with your order. Don’t you just love new technology!
The burgers are wholesome, hot and tasty and the Auckland crowd and skyline still provides the best late night atmosphere in town. Despite the cold surroundings, the bright light of warmth and welcome can be felt through smiling faces that greet you with a “Hey Bro, what can I getcha?”
Where’s your favorite burger joint?