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Diner is so close ... and yet so far

30 Oct 2009

Diner is so close ... and yet so far Image

The Port Truckie Diner is just over the road from Docklands but it is a world away in style and ambience.

Housed in a pre-fab portable building, it feels like it should be in mid-west USA or at least outback Australia.  

No architectural glass and polished floors here.  It’s aluminium cladding and flimsy Perspex which shakes in the wind.

And there are no suits either.  The customers wear fluoro shirts or blue singlets, blue drill trousers and their boots clomp up the wooden entrance ramp and resonate through the thin floor.

All the favourites are on sale – dimmies, battered fish, chips and crumbed sausage-type objects on sticks.  And there are hearty home-cooked meals on offer too.

The diner opened for business early this year to cater for the hundreds of truck drivers who frequent the Port of Melbourne.  The port provided the facility in response to industrial action some years ago when a roadhouse was removed from Footscray Rd to make way for recent road access improvements.

Tass Koumakis is a part owner of the business.  He and business partner Santino Cattafi share shifts during the diner’s opening hours of 5.30am to 1am, Monday to Saturday.

Tass says the diner is a home away from home for truckies.  The drivers are welcome to catch some sleep in their rigs and freely use the shower and toilet facilities.

“And when they wake up in the morning, they can come in for breakfast,” he said.

“They can sit down and watch TV and spend as much time as they like here.  They can make it their home.”

There is parking here for up to 130 trucks.

Mr Koumakis said he had been struck by the politeness of the truckies who use the facility.  He said their gruff personas resulted in them being largely misunderstood.

The clientele come from all around Australia.  Their common feature is that they are all down to earth in their outlook.

And truckies aren’t the only group to benefit from the diner. Every night at closing time, Tass takes a box of leftovers to a hole in the perimeter fence where is it collected by a group of homeless people who live under a bridge.  They too are welcome to use the facilities.  “We don’t judge them,” Tass said.

A new roadhouse is scheduled to be built on the site of the fish market but is still some years in the future.  In the meantime, the Port Diner will continue to defy the glamour of Docklands with its honest offerings and rustic charm.

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