The po-boy is a New Orleans classic: the humble sandwich elevated to a whole new level. A po-boy’s beauty is in its simplicity and accessibility. You’re as likely to get a phenomenal po-boy in an unheralded hole-in-the-wall as you are to get one in one of the world famous joints around town. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all po-boys are equal, because they certainly aren’t. To complicate matters, the po-boy has been redefined and reinterpreted over the years as creative chefs infuse the simple sandwich with other influences from around the globe. Now, the po-boy is a very personal experience, and whether you like it dressed (meaning lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) or not, the best po-boy for you probably isn’t going to be top dog with everyone else. In fact, put 10 New Orleanians in a room and ask their pick for the best po-boy in town, and you’re going to get a range of answers, almost all starting with, “Well, it depends what kind of po-boy you want…”
Here are a few of the great po-boys you can grab all over town:
Where to Find Po-Boys
Uptown & Garden District
Domilise’s — While you may have to brave a line at this Uptown institution, the shrimp po-boy will be well worth the wait. The huge, crispy fried shrimp, piled atop shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and pickles, spill out from the French bread on all sides. A dash of hot sauce, and you’re in heaven. Be warned: your po-boy may take a little extra time, because the shrimp aren’t hanging out under a heat lamp. They don’t hit the fryer until after you’ve ordered.
Tracey’s — When wandering into Tracey’s for the first time, I’d recommend eating like it is Friday during Lent. That is, sticking to the seafood. Tracey’s po-boys are crafted using only local seafood, so you know it’s fresh. Tracey’s is a great spot for a memorable oyster po-boy full of plump, crisp oysters that will keep you coming back for more. A casual, laid-back atmosphere make Tracey’s an easy spot to enjoy for an extended lunch.
Parasol’s — Parasol’s is undoubtedly one of the fine hole-in-the-wall establishments I was referring to in the introduction. Given my long history of enjoying po-boys here, I can proudly say that just simply being here makes me happy. My go-to order at Parasol’s is the roast beef po-boy. Although they’ve changed the sandwich up a little since my days as a younger man, the roast beef is still slow cooked, dripping with debris, and down right delicious.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern — If I was only allowed one last po-boy in my life, it would be the Surf and Turf from Parkway. You take two of Parkway’s best po-boys (the shrimp and the roast beef) and put them on one sandwich. Parkway’s roast beef po-boy is a sloppy, sloppy mess of slow-cooked roast beef, debris, and juices. This delicious sandwich comes in at a solid 1:1 ratio of napkins needed per bite. In contrast, their shrimp po-boys are crisp and clean with virtually no mess but all the deliciousness. While you can’t go wrong with either of these, the Surf and Turf means you’ll never have to bother deciding.
Bevi Seafood Co. — Mid-City’s most recent po-boy utopia offers a host of options that go well beyond the seafood po-boys their name would imply. The cochon de lait po-boy has seen a surge in popularity around town in the last decade, and Bevi does a fantastic rendition with pecan-smoked pork, cole slaw, pickled peppers, and charred onion mayonnaise. Be forewarned that Bevi doesn’t have a lot of indoor seating in Mid-City, but they have ample picnic tables outside. Plus, Bevi’s proximity to City Park and Bayou St. John make this an excellent stop for a picnic lunch.
Killer Po-Boys — If you’ve read a story about po-boys at any time since 2012, you’ve read about Killer Po-Boys. I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a local or national publication, blog, or other media outlet that hasn’t fallen head over heels in love with the innovative creations that come out of the Killer Po-Boys kitchen. And their success backs this up, having already expanded from a small kitchen inside the Erin Rose bar to adding their own stand-alone space just a few blocks away. Unlike every other place on this list, I’m not going to recommend anything. Just listen to your heart, because it is all delicious. Be mindful that the original Killer Po-Boys in the Erin Rose is not family friendly.
Verti Marte — Near the back end of the Quarter, you’re going to find your answer to the age old question of, “Where do we get an appropriately delicious meal at 3 a.m.?” A convenience store with a tiny kitchen counter in the back and, most important, delivery. You’ve got a bevy of po-boy options to choose from, including all of the traditional items and an array of specialty offerings, but if you’re doing it right, the sandwich to order is All That Jazz, which might as well be called the Everything Po-Boy. All That Jazz features grilled ham, turkey, and shrimp with both Swiss and American cheeses, finished off with grilled mushrooms.
At a Festival
If you’re here for a festival, here are the po-boy booths to seek out:
Vaucresson — Look for Vaucresson’s booth if you’re in the mood for an excellent sausage po-boy. Vaucresson’s kicking crawfish sausage po-boys and amazing hot sausage po-boys are perfect on their own without any dressing or condiments (although a touch of spicy mustard adds a little more heat). Can’t find them on the festival grounds? You can always order your own Vaucresson sausage for making classic New Orleans cuisine at home!
Boucherie — Boucherie’s has two big entrants on the festival food circuit. First is a 12-hour roast beef po-boy with pickled red onions and a horseradish cream, which alone could probably improve most anything. The other is a New Orleans BBQ shrimp po-boy, which does not mean grilled shrimp drowning in BBQ sauce but rather sauteed shrimp in an awesome butter sauce. After racking up the awards in festival after festival, Boucherie has made these tasty sandwiches available on their lunch menu so you can check them out even if it isn’t festival season.
Love at First Bite — I’m always wary of advertising and branding, particularly when someone is daring to call themselves Love at First Bite. Well, in this case, any misgivings are certainly unfounded. From my very first cochon de lait po-boy at Jazz Fest it was, indeed, love at first bite. The smoked pork, cabbage and “wertie” sauce, a tangy and spicy mixture, make for heaven on French bread. After years of enjoying success in the catering and festival business, the folks behind Love at First Bite have opened a stand-alone restaurant in New Orleans East called Walker’s Southern Style BBQ. Get seduced for lunch from Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. until they’re sold out.