Inside Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop, a single framed photograph adorns a thin wall behind the cash register. As customers enter the restaurant and grab a laminated menu, they place their order at the counter, and then move to an open table or stool at the bar. Few, if any, notice that a picture of the legendary New Orleans restaurant Uglesich’s hangs reverently, overlooking the dining room floor.
“We first bought that picture just because of how cool it was to have here in the restaurant,” Chef Ben Wicks mentioned after a recent visit. “But the more time went on, I realized that Ugglie’s was kinda what I wanted to emulate. In terms of Po-Boys, at least.”
Much has been written about why Chef Wicks opened up Mahony’s and his background as the chef de cuisine at Rio Mar (for those who are unaware, Wicks gained the inspiration for a Po-Boy shop from eating a bad sandwich somewhere in the city). Indeed, Mahony’s attracts a lot of attention outside of New Orleans, having been featured in articles in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. They’ve even been featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (clip below) and on an upcoming episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmer.
Of course, no one is more surprised by the national response than the chef himself.“This was a neighborhood concept the whole time,” Wicks said as he placed a heaping plate of super thin onion rings in front of me. “Honestly, I just wanted to open up a great Po-Boy place and not go broke.”
It isn’t just the national media that has taken note of Mahony’s. Locals have fervently responded to Wicks’ insistence on utilizing the freshest local ingredients, which starts with the French bread. “When we opened, I knew a few things here were non-negotiable. I needed to use Leidenheimer French bread and Blue Plate Mayo. That’s what the locals want to see.”
Of course, the fact that the seafood is delivered fresh daily or that the roast beef is braised in the traditional French style of cooking further enhances their reputation for quality (you can see Chef Wicks create his roast beef here). Want something a little more exotic than traditional Po-Boy standards? Try the “Cochon with Cole Slaw” Po-Boy, which combines slow-cooked pork with Wicks’ recipe for slaw. For those who have never tried it, think of a combination of the familiar New Orleans sandwich with the delicacy of North Carolina BBQ.
And if you’re trying to stay away from meat, there’s always the Holy Trinity of southern cooking in Po-Boy form: jumbo grilled shrimp, fried green tomatoes, and remoulade. There’s a reason it’s Mahony’s most popular item on the menu; the tomatoes are lightly battered and the remoulade doesn’t overpower anything in the sandwich, leaving the natural sweetness of the shrimp to shine through.
Uglesich’s restaurant is no more. But Ben Wicks and Mahony’s keep the impossibly high marks of excellence set by the New Orleans standards before them.
Mahony’s is open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm.