Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
No other American sandwich this side of the hamburger is as ubiquitous as the New Orleans po'boy. And while the city staple has seen an ongoing evolution (a Shanghai Shrimp po'boy recently won the festival's "Best of Fest" award), almost all variations can be traced back to the 1929 original, named by Bennie and Clovis Martin, owners of the since-closed Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand & Restaurant. The duo expressed their solidarity for striking streetcar workers by serving them free sandwiches, and their name for the workers—"poor boys"—became the name of the sandwich itself. Here, a few standout spots for po'boy perfection of all kinds. Grab napkins, and dig in.
The Old-School Classic Po'boy
5240 Annunciation Street, 504/899-9126
When New Orleanians talk about po'boy joints, the image that comes to their minds is likely of a place a lot like Domilise's. Light on creature comforts but powerfully evocative of its Uptown neighborhood's pre-gentrification, working-class past, the off-kilter corner restaurant—basically a cramped barroom with a makeshift open kitchen—exists to serve po'boys. Sadly, Dot Domilise, the family matriarch, passed away in June, but her kin in the open kitchen are carrying on the tradition for cooking food to order and accepting no guff. The line often snakes out the door, but the straight-from-the-oil fried oysters are worth it.
The Modern Classic Po'boy
Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Avenue, 504/482-3047
Near the bank of Bayou St. John, Parkway dates to the early 1910s but had sat dormant for a decade when Jay Nix brought it back to life in 2003. Updates include patio seating and amenities that by po'boy joint standards count as modern. (Yes, credit cards are accepted.) Fried shrimp and oysters share the menu with smoked alligator and beef barbecue po'boys. Tip: If you can find a seat at the bar, you won't have to wait in line.
The Innovator Po'boy
Liuzza's by the Track
1518 North Lopez Street, 504/218-7888
Around the corner from the horse track, this neighborhood haunt serves traditional po'boys, plus a wonderfully spicy gumbo. But this landmark has become known for a handful of specialty po'boys you can't expect to find on every menu in town. Fried oysters in garlic sauce and roast beef with fresh horseradish are crowd favorites, but the best is built from a hollowed-out French bread pistolette filled with New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, a garlicky marriage of molten butter and peeled crustaceans.
Best Roast Beef Po'Boy
R & O's
216 Old Hammond Highway, Metairie, 504/831-1248
Like many classic New Orleans neighborhood restaurants, R & O's menu blends Italian-American red sauce cooking with indigenous blue-collar seafood dishes. Tender beef morsels come slathered in dark gravy on toasted po'boy bread. It's another sandwich worthy of your bucket list.