By Burke Bischoff
In this post, Burke Bischoff describes the abundant variety of po’boys on offer in New Orleans.
New Orleans is internationally famous for its distinctive architecture, one-of-a-kind culture, and absolutely amazing food. Dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée are synonymous with the city and reflect the influence of a multitude of cultures, including West African, Creole, Cajun, African American, and Native American.
The po’boy, or poor boy, is one staple New Orleans dish that comes in almost endless varieties. As long as the signature New Orleans French bread is used, a po’boy can contain any type of filling without losing its identity, thus allowing for countless possibilities and interesting experimentation.
Some of the most common po’boys on the menu in NOLA restaurants and po’boy shops, as well as at some markets and gas stations, are fried shrimp, roast beef, fried oyster, hot sausage, hamburger, fried fish, and sliced ham or turkey. While all of these fillings are delicious, there are plenty of specialty po’boys across the Greater New Orleans area that are also worth trying. Curious foodies can find unique creations like the chicken livers and slaw po’boy, which won an award at the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival and can be found at Mahony’s Po-Boys and Seafood on Magazine Street.
One interesting and notable po’boy trend is to offer more vegetarian options, such as the Italian caprese from Parkway Bakery & Tavern on Hagan Avenue. Located on Dauphine Street, Killer PoBoys has an entire menu of specialty po’boys, including a nice selection of veggie sandwiches, such as the roasted cauliflower, roasted sweet potato, and Thai BBQ tofu. Marrero’s Chateau Orleans, located on Barataria Boulevard, has a tasty po’boy made with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, garlic cream cheese spread, olive salad, and three different cheeses.
Some po’boys were created to reflect dishes from other cultures and cuisines. Killer PoBoys’ seared Gulf shrimp po’boy, with pickled carrots, daikon, and cucumbers, is done up like a Vietnamese bánh mì. Gretna’s Island Paradise Restaurant & Grill, which specializes in Caribbean cuisine and is located on Kepler Street, offers island-twist po’boys such as oxtail, jerk chicken, and jerk shrimp. Chateau Orleans has a particularly delicious Greek po’boy that comes with gyro, feta cheese, tomato, lettuce, grilled onion, and cucumber sauce.
For folks who have trouble deciding what type of po’boy to get, some places offer po’boys that combine fillings from different sandwiches. For example, Mother’s Restaurant, located on Poydras Street and the originator of the beloved debris po’boy, has a sandwich called the Famous Ferdi Special, which is loaded with ham, debris, and roast beef. Parkway Bakery has an award-winning sandwich named the James Brown, which is filled with BBQ beef, fried shrimp, pepper jack cheese, and hot-sauce mayo.
From alligator sausage, softshell crab, and BBQ shrimp to surf-and-turf and French fried potato, there are too many incredible po’boys to list both in and around New Orleans. So the best way to learn about the po’boys of the Greater New Orleans area is to come down and try every single one for yourself.
Burke Bischoff, a lifelong resident of New Orleans’s West Bank, is a journalist and former executive editor at Where Y’at magazine. A graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, he also worked as an associate producer at WYES-TV.
Po’Boy tells the story of how a humble sandwich became a symbol of New Orleans culture, history, and cuisine. Invented to help feed a crowd of out-of-work individuals in New Orleans’s streetcar industry, the po’boy is a submarine-like sandwich served on French bread, with common fillings that include fried seafood, roast beef and gravy (“debris”), and hot sausage. Rich with historical detail, Po’Boy welcomes readers into the world of the city’s most iconic sandwich.