Advertisement
Parkway Bakery Roast Beef and Fried Shrimp Po'Boys
Roast beef and fried shrimp po'boys from Parkway Bakery and Tavern, New Orleans
| Credit: Pableaux Johnson

New Orleans po'boy culture thrives on variety. The menu board of any neighborhood sandwich shop will inevitably sport a dizzying roster of flavorful options certain to appease any lunchtime craving. Whether you're in the mood for freshly fried seafood, gravy-soaked morsels of slow-cooked roast beef, or layers of thinly-sliced ham and cheese, your culinary whim will arrive tightly swaddled in white butcher paper and satisfyingly heavy for its size. But whether you opted for simple turkey and Swiss or marinara-drenched veal parmigiana, it will arrive stuffed inside the city's iconic French loaf— locally known as "po'boy bread."

In New Orleans, the phrase implies a very specific set of flavors and textures – a thin, shatter-crisp beige crust surrounding a pillowy soft interior. The bread's crumb — cotton-candy soft, and absorbent— makes it a perfect medium for saucy variations (smothered roast beef, meatball with "red gravy") or the inevitable combination of standard condiments (slices of Creole tomato, shredded iceberg, and a generous smear of mayo). A proper po'boy loaf showcases the filling of the day while maintaining its structural integrity until the last sloppy bite. 

Compared to denser, hard-crusted artisanal baguettes, these purpose-baked loaves are mostly air and as such, don't age particularly well. A day or so after baking, the soft interior takes on a crackly consistency, making it unsuitable for sandwiches, but perfect for another New Orleans classic— bread pudding. 

Over the years, the city's classic bread is also synonymous with one of its bedrock local businesses — Leidenheimer Bakery. When the po'boy came into vogue in the mid-20th century, the Leidenheimer family made their bones supplying the popular yet fragile specialty to po'boy joints and corner stores throughout the city. Founded in 1896, Leidenheimer's is the last of the old-school po'boy bakeries and responsible for the lion's share of New Orleans' daily bread. Their colorful delivery trucks prowl neighborhoods from the French Quarter to the lakefront, delivering bundles of fresh loaves daily and keeping this hearty working-class tradition alive.