6 January 2017

CBRfoodie checks out the food at Canberra Summernats

| Elias Hallaj
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Many people in Canberra don’t appreciate the annual Summernats car festival that takes over EPIC and much of our normally quiet summer city for about four days at the beginning of January each year.

As Jane Speechley explained in an earlier RiotACT story, the current organising team behind Summernats is working hard to improve its culture and image. I think they’re doing a very good job. I was only there on Thursday for a few short hours, but what I saw impressed me and shattered some of the stereotypes that I had about the event.

I went with the intention of reviewing some of the food available to patrons, and admit I assumed Summernats food would be mostly typical carny-style fast food (dagwood dogs, chips, hot-dogs, etc.) and maybe I would be lucky to find a good old-school greasey hamburger van or barbecued meat.

Boy, was I wrong!


Within minutes of arriving I stumbled upon the “Cuban Cantina”, which was doing a roaring trade in American-style wraps and fruit smoothies. The taste and value in their $6 egg and bacon wrap was a very pleasant surprise. It also helped break the ice with other people there who were equally impressed and happy to talk about the food (more on one of the people I met later!).


There were plenty of other good food options as well. I had heard rumours of reasonably good kebabs behind the main grandstand – and they were right. Well sort of. Don’t say I didn’t warn you but you should never accuse a souvlaki merchant of making kebabs, or vice versa. It’s a long story, but keen observers of balkan history will understand. The Summernats Souvlaki looks and tastes good, and at $12 each was reasonable value too.

souvlaki german-kitchen

Kransky’s and similar German food is well represented!


And there was tent promising hot tasty kebabs! $20 seemed a bit steep for a ‘kebab with the lot’ so I erred on caution, but after speaking to another customer who said it was amazing and he still remembers the one he had last year… I might go back and check them out this weekend for FOMO. There’s also an American-style food truck that claims to have awesome burgers. Will have to get that confirmed though as I’d already exceeded my recommended calorie intake for the morning by about 200%.


One very smart parent I met (Greg) who had been a regular attendee for years, brought his two kids along with packed healthy lunches (i.e. cut sandwiches, veg, fruit, etc.) and hearing protection! I was mightily impressed!

OK, back to the person I met while enjoying the Cuban Cantina – his name is Graham Stewart and he’s from The Leukaemia Foundation Aussie Muscle Car Run. I started by asking him what he was eating for breakfast at Summernats this year … and a few other questions. The short video interview is on the RiotACT Facebook page.

Like many of the people at this car festival this is Graham’s first Summernats! He’s here to help promote the fundraising which Aussie Muscle Car Run does for the Australian Leukaemia Foundation. And they’re looking for Canberra crews who want to register and help raise money for this important cause.

My first impressions of Summernats (apart from surprisingly good food) have been lots of friendly people who happen to like cars enjoying a sunny Canberra day …and lots of noise! If you are noise sensitive definitely bring some ear protection! I understand Summernats injects about $20 million into the local economy over 4 days. It also injects a lot of noise ?.

My second impression of Summernats confirms my suspicions that there are lots of ordinary Aussies who love cars and look forward to this annual event to spend a few days in Canberra and share their stories and passions. Sure there are a minority of hoons and a few misbehaving dickheads as well but the vast majority of people here (and I’ve seen lots of happy families and women here today) are just here to have a good time with others who share their interests and return home safely. And a few, like Graham, are here for really worthy causes that many people in the Canberra community would normally support if they knew about them. I’m pretty certain the new owners of the RiotACT will also happily help promote these events to.


As he mentioned, they’re looking for Canberra participants in this year’s run, so if you have the time and ability and interest in raising money for this great cause, hop onto their Facebook page or website at http://www.aussiemusclecarrun.com and get in touch with Graham or his colleagues!


Summernats is on for three more days until Sunday. You can get tickets online via their website. If you haven’t been before you may be pleasantly surprised!

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All opinions are his own. If you have any tips or feedback you can find him on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

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You didn’t go and check out Regulators BBQ? Canberra’s own BBQ?

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