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Sandwich Wars: New Orleans vs. Philadelphia

Whatever happens on the football field, New Orleans beats Philadelphia in the sandwich wars with the po-boy and muffaletta.

Be honest with yourself: is there anything better than a sandwich? I’m sure some of you feel honor-bound to say things like “my wife” or “a baby’s smile,” but neither of those things comes in its own edible container (which is probably for the best).

Shrimp po boy New Orleans
Can anyone feel poor – or po – with fried shrimp spilling out of their sandwich? (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Philadelphia is a titan on the American sandwich scene, of course. The Philly Cheesesteak is known far and wide as a wonderful way to spend lunchtime – and rightly so. How could any city compete against Philadelphia as sandwich capital of the United States? Could anyone stand against the meaty might of the cheesesteak? Why, to stand against a sandwich as famed for belt-busting joy as the cheesesteak, a city would almost need… two signature sandwiches. I can think of a city that does. Can you guess which one?

When it comes to putting wonderful things in bread, New Orleans is at the top of its game. Our “starter” in the Sandwich Wars is the muffaletta, a hard-to-spell, easy-to-love pile of meat, cheese, and olive salad (not the oft-maligned tapenade) generously layered on a soft Sicilian bread. Strictly, a muffuletta (pronounced, more or less, Muffa Lotta) should contain salami, ham, pepperoni, mortadella sausage, capicola (a prosciutto-like cured meat), provolone, and Swiss cheese. It’s topped off with the aforementioned olive salad – a mixture of olives and chopped vegetables left to soak in olive oil, garlic, oregano, and spices and absorb the assorted goodness. The French Quarter’s Central Grocery, where this oily jewel of a sandwich was invented, sells them in quarter, half, and full sizes. A quarter will probably make a meal – but, even better, a full will probably make four meals.

Our “relief” in the Battle of Fort Sandwich is an old favorite – the po-boy. (If you’re in a restaurant and you see it spelled “poor boy” on the menu, create a diversion and leave as quickly as you can.) A po-boy is essentially a submarine (hoagie, grinder, zep, insert regional variation here), Creole style. The most popular type is fried seafood – shrimp, oyster, and/or catfish – “dressed” with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Land-meat variants include roast beef, sausage, or chicken, which usually have mustard and gravy. If you’re polite, pretty, or insistent, some places will give you a mixed fried seafood po-boy with roast beef gravy on it. Sprinkled with a little Crystal sauce, this is the best thing that can happen to a human being this side of the pearly gates. To guide you on your search for the best New Orleans po-boy, refer to this nifty Top Five list.

Sandwiches aren’t the most important thing in the world, but they’re probably the most pleasant. If you like good things in bread – zip down to New Orleans, and be sure to pack some elastic-waist pants.

See New Orleans take on the Philly Cheesesteak and the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, November 5 in the Superdome or at one of our favorite bars to watch a Saints game. WHO DAT!

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