Place of origin
|Australian meat pie, pea soup|
|Cookbook:Pie floater Pie floater|
The pie floater is an Australian dish particularly common in Adelaide and, to a lesser degree, Sydney. It commonly consists of a traditional Australian-style meat pie, usually sitting, but sometimes submerged (sometimes upside down) in a bowl of thick green pea soup. It is usually garnished with tomato sauce, and the consumer may also add mint sauce, salt, pepper and/or malt vinegar to personal preference. The pie floater is usually purchased in the street from pie-carts as a late evening meal.
Pie floaters are typically purchased in the street from pie-carts, as a late evening meal. Pie-carts are typically a form of caravan/trailer/cart, (originally horse-drawn), with an elongated "window" along one or both sides where customers sit or (more usually) stand to eat their purchases. The pie-cart was typically moved into position at lunch time and in the evening. As traffic became busier and on-street car-parking in demand, the carts evolved to have one window on "the footpath side", and were moved into position after afternoon peak-hour traffic had ebbed. They do business until late-evening or early-morning, after which they were returned to their daytime storage locations.
South Australia has had pie carts in the Adelaide metropolitan area since the 1870s. In the evenings, the Norwood pie-cart was located on The Parade adjacent to the Norwood Town Hall. It was also the only place where members of the public could buy draft Hall's "Stonie" ginger beer directly from the keg.
In 2003, The South Australian National Trust traced the history of the pie floater: an impressive history tracing back 130+ years.
Early records in South Australia state that the pie floater was reputedly born in Port Pirie, South Australia, conceived by one Ern "Shorty" Bradley in 1890's - but, no one really knows how. Did he inadvertently drop a pie into a bowl of soup? Or maybe what a lot of people are stating today, it could have been because the bottom of the pie is softer and easier to tuck in with a spoon and it maybe because it stops the pie from slipping around the plate. Or though pea soup with meat has long been part of English culinary history, with honourable mentions in the 19th Century, including Yorkshire "pea and pie supper", "pea soup with eel", "suet dumplings or saveloys", (Dumplings in soup were known as "Floaters"). Maybe, it developed from those dishes, which are useful when you have a lot of people to feed on a budget: for example at a cricket match, or at harvest time or even at the footy. 
In the Adelaide city centre in the 1880s, there were 13 pie-carts operating in King William Street and North Terrace. By 1915 there were nine pie-carts in operation. By 1958 this had reduced to two: Balfour's pie-cart on North Terrace outside the Adelaide Railway Station, and Cowley's in Victoria Square outside the G.P.O. When, in 2007, the Glenelg Tramline was extended from Victoria Square along King William Street and North Terrace past the Adelaide Railway Station, the Balfour's pie-cart was forced to close.
A well known version of the pie floater in Sydney is sold from Harry's Cafe de Wheels pie cart situated in Woolloomooloo, New South Wales. Harry's Cafe de Wheels is listed on the National Trust Register as an historic icon. Originally set near the graving docks (now Australian Naval Dockyards known as 'Garden Island Naval Base' Woolloomooloo), east of the Sydney Opera House, the current Cafe de Wheels has been permanently fixed on a masonry base for some years. Other Harry's Cafe de Wheels operate in the Sydney city and metropolitan area, and in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales.
- The glorious meat pie and humble pie floater abc.net.au/sa Retrieved 2010-11-27
- Australian "Tomato Sauce" is not "ketchup". Australians do not use the word "ketchup"; ketchup is made with vinegar, and is a pickle sauce; Australian tomato sauce is made without vinegar.
- samemory.sa.gov.au Retrieved 2010-11-27
- Marks, Kathy (2003-12-06). "Adelaide's 'pie floater' fights losing battle in fast food war". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-03-29.
- Pie Floater entry at the National Trust of South Australia[dead link]
- Peter Goers (19 May 2007). "Floaters sink as station pie cart gets the push". Sunday Mail. www.adelaidenow.com.au. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
- "Harry’s Café de Wheels". NSW.NationalTrust.org.au. 2004-03-20. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- Excerpts[dead link] from Billy Connolly's World Tour of Australia (including a description of a pie floater)
- Pie Floater article (includes a photo of the South Australian version of the pie floater)