Parkway Bakery and Tavern's Po'Boys are Worth the Wait
For a New Orleans restaurant, a long lunch line qualifies as something between a minor inconvenience and a tourist-clogged deal breaker. But on this beautiful October day at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern, it turns out to be a sign of ongoing hope.
A line of about 50 customers snakes around the wood-frame building—a former bakeshop—giving folks time to make choices and admire the place.
First-timers peruse the tight, no-nonsense menu featuring 20 or so variations on the po'boy, New Orleans' signature sandwich. There's an emphasis on the classics—gravy-soaked roast beef, flash-fried Gulf seafood, jambalaya and fries on the side, plus bread pudding and rum cake for dessert if that's your thing. Regulars already know their orders by heart and pass the time drinking a midday beer.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern, a Mid-City neighborhood fixture that originally opened in 1911, is a testament to the resilience of New Orleans' workday traditions. Contractor turned restaurateur Jay Nix bought the run-down building in 1995 to protect both the structure and the no-frills dining institution—hearty, affordable sandwiches served on locally baked French loaves. When he later reopened the Parkway, he adopted the hilariously proper spelling of "poor boy," an old-school formality at a time when most locals opted for the simpler "po'boy."
Nix and nephew Justin Kennedy have brought the Parkway back from the brink of oblivion, solidified a beloved New Orleans foodway, and anchored the neighborhood during years of huge changes. After recovering from significant Hurricane Katrina flooding, the Parkway became a culinary destination. During the recent COVID-19 shutdown, they adapted to ever-shifting health regulations—moving bar and dining room operations outdoors under likely permanent tents to keep people fed when rainstorms arrive.
The Parkway's hallmark is sticking to solid kitchen fundamentals. The most popular po'boy is gloriously overstuffed with wild-caught Gulf shrimp that basically explodes out of its white paper wrapper. Many regulars swear by the sloppy, nine-napkin roast beef sandwich, but the real sleeper on the menu is the hot ham and cheese. The first bite reminds you of the importance of simple details like the crisp crust of the signature Leidenheimer French bread.
In the end, it's memories of perfect po'boys from the past (and the people who prepared them) that make the Parkway well worth the inevitable wait.
parkwaypoorboys.com, 504-482-3047, 538 Hagan Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70119