No native or visitor of the Crescent City can go more than a week without having at least one of the many carb-laden and meat-stuffed delicacies that is the traditional New Orleans Po’ Boy.
This massive sandwich gets its name from the same treat that kept striking workers full in the 1940s, and has been the food of the gods for anyone within the city’s borders. And that’s coming from a town where just about every morsel tastes like it’s fried in butter, churned slowly and sensually by Ali Landry, and seasoned by a heavenly cherub that farts Tony Chachere’s Original Creole.
It’s one of the few foods in modern history that can truly be judged by its consistency as much as its taste and texture. The po-boy is more than just a long piece of bread with meat and cheese in the middle. Po’ boy shops and restaurants sell elongated meals filled with as much meat, cheese and veggies that traditional French bread can structurally hold and then destroy the bread’s integral engineering with special sauces, condiments and gold ol’ fashioned American gravy.
In fact, you’re not really eating one of these great Southern creations if you’re not covered in sandwich debris, making strangers think you were eating a restaurant where the salad bar exploded. These are the Big Easy eats that are worthy of ruining a freshly pressed shirt (and by default, pants, shoes, socks, underwear and whatever else underneath your outfit that you’ll be taking to the dry cleaners and pretending it’s really your wife’s).
Mother’s Famous Ferdi Special
Anyone driving down Poydras Avenue around lunch time will see a large line snaking out the front door of this CBD staple. It’s for a good reason. Good things come to those who wait.
Mother’s Restaurant has one of the oldest and tastiest menus in the entire city including this sweet and sloppy sandwich. The “Ferdi” is served on traditional French bread with three different kinds of meat including ham, roast beef and a special mix called “debris.” It might like something that was scraped off the scrap pile in the kitchen and technically it is but it’s way more delicious than it sounds.
According to the legend, in the restaurant’s early days, customers loved to sample the tips carved off the roast until one day, they fell in some gravy and became a signature part of the sandwich. Diners who order a Ferdi Special can expect a sandwich drowned in rich gravy that so sopped with the stuff, it’s sitting in a puddle on the plate. The sweetest part is that the staff are nice enough not to charge you for the gravy that is technically part of the sandwich.
Acme Oyster House’s 10-Napkin Roast Beef Po’ Boy
Roast beef po’ boys are usually a messy meal because the good ones come covered with gravy. It’s the kind of meal a death row prisoner would eat if he didn’t mind being photographed in the chair with brown stains all over his uniform (although I imagine if I was being put down by the state, brown “shirt” stains would be the least of my worries).
This sandwich from the local chain comes with a famous 10-napkin minimum for anyone who orders it and with good reason. It is overstuffed with shredded, tender roast beef and holding more gravy than Rush Limbaugh’s stomach after his third Thanksgiving meal.
It’s far from the best roast beef po’ boy in the city, but it’s certainly one of the tastier challenges in the city’s board of fare. The challenge, of course, is to eat the thing and not make anyone think you don’t have the hand-eye coordination to feed yourself.
Liuzza’s By the Track’s Roast Beef Po’ Boy
When John Goodman’s character on Treme decided to have his last meal at this New Orleans institution, we really couldn’t him blame him. This sandwich would be on our bucket list if we knew we were going to kick ours very soon.
It’s as messy as it looks and twice as tasty, thanks in part to the signature gravy that tastes like the world’s tangiest food lubricant. It’s almost sacrilegious to put any condiment on this sandwich other than the gravy, partly because the entire affair would render even the most dapper gentleman so truly a po’ boy people would give him their loose change out of reflexive pity.
It requires more than just an entire box of diner napkins to clean up the mess this sandwich will make. It’s best to bring a mop and a slop bucket so you can wring it out and enjoy the squeezings for later.
Domilise’s Shrimp and Oyster Po’ Boy
This Uptown staple has one of the most off-the-map locations of any restaurant you’ll find in a major metropolitan city, but that hasn’t gotten in the way of making it one of the premiere places to get a po’ boy in the entire city.
This famous po’ boy shop, restaurant and bar on Annunciation Street has been feeding the residents of Uptown for years and one of the best on the menu is their signature slice of seafood heaven.
They are famous for frying their seafood the moment the customer orders it, so it retains just the right amount of greasy goodness for the sandwich. They also slather it in mayonnaise and stick two pieces of locally baked bread on either side of the concoction. Then, if you’re interested at all in impressing the locals, you’ll covered the insides with some Crystal hot sauce. This spicy, sloppy mixture is worth the cholesterol lecture you’ll get from your cardiologist the next day.
Koz’s “Chamber of Horror”
This may look like a simple po’ boy sandwich from above, but inside its fearsome chambers lies a scary mess of every meat, vegetable, side dish, sauce, condiment and probably edible lifeform that you can imagine.
This is a holdover from Gentilly’s famous “The Bakery,” which was lost in 10 feet of stagnant water thanks to Hurricane Katrina and good ol’ fashioned government inefficienc. It returned triumphantly to Koz’s new self-titled establishment. The “thing” (in its most monstrous sense of the word) comes with ham, roast beef, turkey, two types of cheese, dressings, onions, mayo and Creole mustard. And no, it doesn’t come in a “lite” version.
Biting into the thing is the world’s most delicious liability. The owner will not be held responsible for what happens to your clothes, your fellow diners’ safety or what’s left of your dignity.
Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, reporter, humorist and carb hoarder. He can be found on the web at www.dannygallagher.net, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thisisdannyg and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dannyboythezombie.
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