“Here comes another poor boy,” workers from Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant would utter. This statement, according to co-owner Bennie Martin, referred to streetcar conductors on strike during the 1929 streetcar strike in New Orleans. To support the striking drivers, who were protesting the possible elimination of the carmen’s union and 1,100 jobs, the restaurant provided sandwiches to these men free of charge. That, rumor has it, is the commonly cited tale of how the poor boy, or po’boy, sandwich got its name.
However, history is seldom this straightforward. Despite this common and heartwarming tale (though the strike itself was among the most violent in the nation), the historical record is replete with other possible scenarios for how the sandwich received its name. Locals had been eating the sandwich, or something very similar, years before the streetcar strike, and others have claimed the title of creating the po’boy. Regardless, the Martin Brothers, as well as baker John Gendusa who helped develop a bread loaf shape that resulted in less waste, are credited with defining the po’boy as we now know it.
Oak Street Po’Boy Festival
The Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, which pays homage to the humble po-boy, returns for its 12th year on Sunday, Nov. 11. Designed to spur business along the Oak Street Corridor, this year’s festival features over 30 food vendors, music across four stages, and the Where Y’Arts Market.
Sunday, Nov. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Oak Street (between S. Carrollton Ave. and the River)
Free admission (wristbands required for food purchases)
While the festival itself is free, if you want to eat you will need to purchase a wristband. Wristbands start at $5, and will be available at one of several Son of A Saint Wristband Booths at the festival. If you want to avoid long lines, though, the $20 Fast Pass allows access to the fast line. Finally, the VIP wristband, for $99, includes access to a VIP lounge with specialty cocktails, unlimited beer from Urban South Brewery, snacks, an indoor bathroom, and use of the fast pass lines.
Voters selected the Oak Street Po’Boy Festival as Gambit’s “Best Food Festival” — and with good reason. As its name implies, the po’boy is the focus of this festival. The extensive menu includes both creative and traditional iterations of the po’boy sandwich, which compete for the title in a range of categories (best overall, best pork, best beef, best seafood, most original, etc.).
Several returning champions, including Parkway Bakery & Tavern—back from two-year hiatus—will join this year’s vendor lineup. A sampling of the most exotic offerings includes the lobster po’boy from Voleos Seafood Restaurant, the BBQ oyster po-boy from Red Fish Grill, the pork belly deviled egg po’boy from NOLA Boils & Catering, and, from Ninja, the crawfish feta po’boy topped with mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. More traditional options include the soft shell crab po’boy from Jack Dempsey’s and the Creole hot sausage po’boy from Vaucresson Sausage Company. Review the whole menu online before you strategically plan your meals—choosing from 60 po’boy options will be anything but easy. As noted, festival attendees that would like to eat must purchase a wristband.
Like any good New Orleans festival, live, local music plays a key role. Beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m. and lasting through the end of the festival, fest-goers can catch live bands across four stages spread throughout Oak Street. Acts include George Porter Trio W/ Special Guests, J & The Causeways, Funk Monkey Featuring Arsene DeLay, and the Iceman Special. Check the festival’s website for the full music schedule.
- Make your way over to Oak Street on Friday night, Nov. 9 for a kick off event at Maple Leaf Bar, Oak and Ale for music and Urban South’s Po-Boy Lager, brewed specially for the festival.
- For football fans, the Saints-Bengals game will screen at multiple stages during the festival.