In Praise of the Po’Boy
Since moving here, I’ve been inducted into the Cult of the Po’Boy. I love those delicious, ubiquitous sammiches so much, both at home and when I go out to eat, and find myself partaking at least once a week, if not more. I just made one for lunch, actually, thus inspiring me to begin this post.
The beauty of the po’boy lies in its simplicity. It’s pretty hard to screw up a recipe that consists of bread, protein of some kind, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (or just bread and the meat if you don’t like it “dressed”). This is not to say that you can’t screw up a po’boy, but you’ll probably be all right as long as you follow a few simple rules. As with any recipe that consists of only a handful of ingredients, you must use the best. No skimping and using “lite” mayo, or not-quite-ripe tomatoes, oh no. The bread should be a freshly-baked French loaf, crusty on the outside and soft in the middle (Leidenheimer brand, if you’re a purist, and I am in this case), and your lettuce must be shredded or chopped up into little pieces.
As for the main attraction, it can be pretty much anything from fried seafood to barbecue to roast beef to fried green tomatoes. When I first moved here, I automatically thought, “fried shrimp or crawfish”, but now I’m an equal-opportunity diner and have a particular soft spot for the po’boys of the hot sausage variety. Nothing beats that bit of extra spiciness.
I screwed up a po’boy one time, and it was because I tried to get too fancy with it. I fried up some green tomatoes to go on the sandwich, which was tasty, but for some reason decided it would be better if I made a cajun remoulade with which to replace the mayonnaise. I will not be doing that again.
Leidenheimer bread. Blue Plate mayonnaise. Lettuce. Tomato. Meat.
Simple, cheap, delicious, and filling, which is what every sandwich should be.
It goes without saying that New Orleans has her fair share of terrific po’boy restaurants. There’s Liuzza’s by the Track, Liuzza’s on Bienville, Mandina’s, Domilise’s, Casamento’s…you get the picture. Everyone has his or her favorite, and I’ll gladly admit that Brother O’Mara and I are Parkway junkies all the way.
The Parkway Bakery and Tavern is on the corner of Hagan and Toulouse at Bayou St. John. Not only is the food mouthwatering, the atmosphere is supremely pleasant. There’s nothing I like more than riding my bike down by the Bayou and enjoying a meal on the patio while the sun sets. It’s totally no-frills– order and pick up at the counter, serve yourself at the soda fountain, eat off paper plates. Outside, there’s a covered section with ceiling fans and an open concrete area where folding tables are put up as needed. All this combines to make me feel like I’m at an outdoor party hosted by a friend rather than a restaurant. You can’t quite see the bayou from the Parkway, but just knowing it’s nearby is good enough.
Oh, the food. Right. There’s that, too. Here’s an out-of-date menu, but you get the idea:
The menu’s been expanded since this one was printed to include BBQ, alligator, hot dog, and sundry other po’boy delights. I’m itching to go by on a Monday to scarf down a fried chicken po’boy, but the stars have not yet aligned to get me there.
Brother O’Mara also digs that they have Barq’s in a bottle, meaning you can eat local at the Parkway from tip to toe: Leidenheimer’s bread, Zapp’s chips, Hubig pies, and Barq’s root beer. Works for me.
(photo by Brother O’Mara)