Shrimp. Oyster. Half and Half. Roast Beef. Sausage. Dressed, please. No matter what kind you choose, a bite of a po-boy is a bite of New Orleans. My friend, Alan, a local who now lives in Seattle, says that a few days before he flies home, he starts dreaming about eating a shrimp po-boy, so connected is that food with this city.
Most visitors know the po-boy as one of the iconic foods of New Orleans, but even the most determined visitor with the most capacious stomach can’t try all of the different kinds of po-boys available. Sampling them all is an impossible feat for one person since a po-boy is meant to be filling, to keep you going on a hard day at work. Also, even if you were really, really hungry, transportation logistics limit the spectrum of possibilities available to most visitors to the downtown area.
But if you are in town on November 18, I urge you to hop a streetcar traveling Uptown and visit the free Oak Street Po-boy Festival, where over 30 vendors will offer samples of New Orleans’ favorite sandwich. In addition to tasting the variety of traditional types of po-boys, po-boy festers can sample some new riffs on this traditional New Orleans sandwich such as the Imposter po-boy offered by the Fat Hen Grocery, made with smoked ham, fried egg, and pimento cheese or the pastrami, gruyere and pickled slaw po-boy from Mondo. Most importantly, visitors and locals alike can learn more about the origins of this beloved sandwich. I won’t give it all away, but it involves locals feeding hungry streetcar workers during a strike. Even its origins lie in keeping folks well fed.
Lest we forget that it’s not a New Orleans festival without music, the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival will have a full lineup of fantastic local bands. Po-Boy Fest is a lively fete, and with music to match. Just as blues goes great with barbecue, funk just harmonizes beautifully with delicious local flavor sandwiched between two thick, fluffy slices of French bread. As you you hunker down to taste the best sandwich you’ve ever had, groove to the sounds of the Treme Funktet, Honey Island Swamp Band, Flow Tribe, and the appropriately billed headliner, Los Poboycitos.
Elizabeth Pearce gives historic cocktail walking tours of the French Quarter. When she’s not drinking or talking about drinking, she’s writing about drinking at Neat with a Twist. To find out more, visit Elizabeth’s website.