The first time I tasted a po’ boy I was 19. It was the morning after an especially wild music festival, and I had gone to a sandwich shop, feeling rough. When confronted with the menu, I decided to go with a barbecued roast beef creation called the “Texas Po’ Boy.” It was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
Now it’s many years later, and the shop that sold me that original po’ boy no longer exists…and my adult palate has long since evolved from craving beef slathered in cheap barbecue sauce. But since no dining experience is more singularly New Orleanian than cramming a fried shrimp po’ boy into your mouth and chasing it with an Abita beer, I still indulge from time to time. Those crunchy, juicy, and altogether messy sandwiches are one of the most traditional treats to be enjoyed in this food-loving city; they’re almost like the heart and soul of this town, stuffed into a loaf of French bread.
Coriander-Lime Gulf Shrimp Po’Boy at Killer Poboys
When Killer Poboys opened in the back of Erin Rose (one of the city’s best dive bars), it immediately became a favorite of service-industry regulars. Of all the po’ boys on the menu, I think this one—prepared with carrots, marinated radishes, cucumbers and Sriracha aioli—is the most fantastic. If it wasn’t precarious to declare an absolute best in the NOLA po’ boy world, this would be it.
Oyster Po’Boy at Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar
Make sure your cab driver stops here on your way to or from the airport. This infamous seafood joint out in Kenner serves some of the most delicious, crunchy fried oyster po’ boys in the area; they’re well worth a detour. When I go here, I’m always happy it’s not in the French Quarter—if it were I would never get a seat!
Hot Sausage Po’Boy at Cajun Seafood
The uptown outpost of this local mini-chain, on North Claiborne Avenue, is one of my top picks for authentic New Orleans-style grub in the city. And I’m not the only local who makes the trip out here just for the po’ boys. The hot sausage version, in particular (layered with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) is mind-altering.
All that Jazz Po’Boy at Verti Marte
This might be the messiest po’ boy in the city. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in this town, it’s that messy food is often the most delicious. The “All that Jazz” is an insane stack of grilled turkey, ham, American and Swiss cheeses, fried shrimp, sautéed mushrooms, and “wow sauce.” And yes, all of it really fits between two pieces of bread.
Roast Beef Po’Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Situated in Bayou St. John, this spot has been open since 1911. The roast beef po’ boy (it’s called a “poor boy” here) comes doused in hot gravy, and is succulent, sloppy, and—to me—an utterly religious experience. Most locals agree that this place is one of the New Orleans greats.