#23 Po’Boys

Ask a Cajun what his favorite lunchtime meal is, and he’s likely to choose a po’boy, south Louisiana’s answer to the hero sandwich. What distinguishes a po’boy from its sandwich cousins is the French bread, flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s not a real po’boy if you aren’t wiping breadcrumbs off yourself after you’re done.

While bread may be king of the po’boy world, the ingredients can hardly be considered peasants. Po’boy shops live and die by the quality of their ingredients, the most common being fried shrimp, fried crawfish, fried catfish, fried oyster (see a pattern here?), and roast beef for the slightly more health conscious. After ordering a po’boy, the question that follows is “How you want your po’boy dressed, cheré?“. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about business casual here no. A fully dressed po’boy has tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayo, and shredded lettuce, though some places substitute shredded cabbage instead. Since a Cajun can never have too many carbs, po’boys are usually served with a generous side of homemade fries, and a pile of napkins, because a sign of a great po’boy experience usually includes having to wipe the juices running down your arms.

But wait, po’boys aren’t Cajun, they’re from New Orleans! That’s technically true, but after what New Orleans did with our gumbo (the tomato fiasco), we’re taking the po’boy for ourselves – consider dat a reparation. And if you New Orleans folks don’t watch out, we’ll go after your beignets next! Anyway, this is a blog about stuff Cajun people like, not stuff Cajun people invented, and the po’boy is a great idea no matter who came up with it first.

There are several competing stories about the origin of the po’poy. In one of the most popular tales, these cheap sandwiches were served to striking New Orleans streetcar workers, called “poor boys”, which was eventually shortened to po’boy. Another theory is that the name po’boy is derived from the French pour boire, or “peace offering”, describing the oyster loaf that men would bring home to their wives to make up for a night out on the town. Leave the debating to the historians, meanwhile, us Cajuns are going to keep shovin’ dem po’boys down our throats.

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16 thoughts on “#23 Po’Boys

  1. Old Tyme Grocery or Chris’ or Julien’s …. all in Lafayette. I really have not been able to find a good Po-Boy anywhere else.

    My favorite is Fried Crawfish Po-Boy.

  2. I have to say that a good poboy is a great thing. And I’m a New Orleans Cajun, and I have found some good shops in New Orleans-
    Johnny’s in the quarter
    Mother’s (home to the Ferdie and the best roast beef poboy EVER)

    but the best fried shrimp I’ve ever had was at Bon Creole in New Iberia. 🙂

    oh, and you ever notice how all good poboy places always have the crappiest flimsiest napkins that are the size of a kleenex and as thin? What’s up with that? I think they make it a rule to give you crappy napkin for the world’s juiciest roast beef poboy.

  3. Dey usually had good po’ boys at da Meraux food store, Mutt’s, and Tony’s in Chalmette (pre-Katrina). Way up in Pineville (everything north of Alexandria is yankee territory) dey try to do a po’boy but it’s on a hotdog bun. Pouyaille!
    It’s alot to do wit’ the bread, neg, but I’m tryin’ to teach ’em right. Any of you had a good potato po’boy? Some had never heard of it, but you got fries, mayo, pickles, cheese and gravy. C’est si bon!

  4. In Lafayette, Old Tyme Grocery put out the best po-boys, without question. I have a friend named Brian Guillory (from Opelousas) that used to manage the place back in the later 80’s early 90’s. He now manages a place in New Orleans on St. Charles called Serio’s Po-boy’s and Deli. Awesome sandwiches there as well. I’m a little partial since during my college stint I worked and ate there.

  5. The only problem i got with Acadiana claming rites to a real po’boy is the serious lack of real french bread west of New Orleans every where i have eatin at west of Baton Rouge and a few places in Red Stick uses hogie rolls. This is un-acceptable

  6. I have to sing the praises of the Ole Tyme Gocery Store also. The Best and largest poboys out there! Oysters is my choice, but if I found soft-shelled crabs, I’d probably go for it instead.
    I live in the greater St Louis area these days and times are tough-I haven’t had a decent poboy since I left home. In particular, every poboy offered outside LA is about 1/3 the size of one I could get at the store. It sickens me to no end. My dream would be to end up teaching at UL L and hit that every day for lunch with a cold beer.

  7. Love The green stores Potato Po-boys! Been eating there since I was a kid and stop there when ever I visit home! So good!:)

  8. Went down to New Iberia in July and also spent 3 days in New Orleans. Really missed my oyster Poboys. I stopped asking after a while.
    Settled on fried crawfish as a substitute at Bon Creole in NI.

  9. So I finally figured a method to figuring out if I’ll get a REAL Poboy at a restaurant…if it’s listed in the menu a simply a poboy, with no indication of “whole” or “Half” then it’s not worth my time.

  10. As someone from New Orleans who had to live in Breaux Bridge after Katrina, ya’ll don’t have a clue about po’boys. Old Time Grocery bread isn’t crusty enough, and then they wrap it in foil which just lets the heat from the shrimp steam the bread to an even softer state (this is why we use paper in NOLA). Then Acadiana’s shops have a tendency to ‘line up’ the shrimp. in NOLA we pile it on, and that’s how its done. If they want to make a better po’boy they need to import leidenheimer bread….it cracks like an uptown sidewalk, and is dense and soft inside…perfect. And, stop being stingy with the shrimp!

    • I haven’t eaten at the OTG in a while, but I never had your experience. You can equal, but not better the poboys there. Then again, I tend to not eat shrimp poboys, only oysters. And its always piled on.

  11. I completely agree with Bryan Sony , nobody in Acadiana can duplicate a NEw Orleans po’boy. BUT ORG is the closest I have come. The oversize hot dog bun is about the worst .
    Where the heck did people here in Acadiana get the idea that NEW ORLEANS people put tomatoes in file gumbo? HOGWASH Am living in Opelousas post Katrina and heard the same thing. Probably somebody not from there made it with tomatoes in New Orleans.Bs humbug.

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