Welcome to the photo series Eater Scenes, in which photographers visit some of the world's great food sites to capture them at a certain, and very specific, point in the day. Today, writer/photographer Arielle Milkman visits a decades-old chip shop just south of Australia's iconic Gold Coast.
In the mid-summer heat, there's nothing more authentic to Australians than a trip to the small fish-and-chips (ahem, that's Australian for french fries) shops that dot the eastern seaboard. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Eater visited Brunswick Fishermen's Co-Op, a fisherman-owned-and-operated fish-and-chips joint about 15 minutes north of hippie-chic paradise town Byron Bay in New South Wales.
Now 70 years old, Brunswick Fishermen's Co-Op is somewhat of a local institution. It sits staunchly in a nondescript brick building at the edge of the town's dock, where boats come in every morning to deliver fresh fish to the shop. Manager John O'Connell is in the back, cleaning and cutting up fresh mahi mahi from Mooloolaba, a town further north on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. He explains that the co-op started in Byron Bay, but moved up to Brunswick Heads after a severe cyclone decimated Byron's fishing industry in 1954. O'Connell, a prawn trawler for 29 years, got out of the fishing industry and started managing the co-op two years ago. But increased competition from the Asian fishing industry makes it hard for Australians to stay in business, he said. At one point there were 26 active prawn trawlers in the Brunswick Heads area; now there is only one.
As the weather heats up, so does the kitchen: The lunch rush is on. Families, travelers, and Australians home for the holidays are here — including a couple who live as far away as Morocco. They've all come to line up at their favorite fish-and-chips stop. Mahi mahi, prawns, and flake (shark meat) are served up grilled or battered, with generous helpings of hot, greasy chips wrapped in paper. It's a casual, no-frills affair — after all, it's too hot to go around in anything more than a swimsuit or shorts. The locals wash down the meal with laughter and ginger beers — or lemon lime and bitters — and stick around to watch the pelicans survey the dock. Survey the summery vibes in the photos above.