Parkway Bakery & Tavern
538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans
I was having a sook yesterday via Instagram about a) boredom levels of sitting in a hospital room for a few hours getting hydrogen breath testing done to work out what the hell is wrong with my body and what foods it doesn’t like, b) hunger levels after 15 hours fasting, and c) very, very high “take me back to New Orleans” levels, exacerbated by listening to Trombone Shorty and scrolling through the AMAZING work of Seph Lawless, who’s been shooting in NoLa, whilst in said waiting room. Hunger and take-me-back factors combined, and had me thinking about how badly I wished I had a left nut to give for another proper, legit, New Orleans po-boy. Damn…
If you’re like me and prioritise eating well when you’re travelling, chances are you might do a little Google search for must eat items in the places you’re visiting. When I performed this ceremonious task for New Orleans, Parkway Bakery & Tavern just kept coming up. It also made appearances on various travel/food shows I watched leading up to the trip. So, obviously, it made its way onto the list.
Parkway is a true New Orleans institution, having opened in 1911, changing ownership in the early 1920’s, and having the signature po’ boy introduced in 1929 to help feed the poor and hungry victims of the street car strike. It’s changed hands a few more times, going through a few periodical closings and openings… you can read more about the history of Parkway here, but all you really need to know is that they make really damn good sandwiches.
First thing you need to know before you visit is that this place is insanely, inhumanely busy, ALL THE TIME! If you want a quick lunch, you’re in the wrong place; you need to adopt the attitude that it’s an experience, not just a quick feed. We arrived literally 5 minutes before opening time, and the line was already snaking its way through the restaurant itself, through the indoor entryway, out the front and spilling onto the street. We waited just under 45 minutes to get to the counter and place our orders, and the incredible thing was, we did not hear a single word of complaint from anyone in line! If anything, there was an atmosphere of gratitude, to be able to have the opportunity and good fortune to be lining up for this stuff… amazing! Anyway, use your time wisely while you’re in line – grab a menu and start studying, because if you don’t know what you want when you get to the front and become “that guy” who holds everyone up, I have a feeling the happy atmosphere will turn on you pretty quickly.
Anyway, our minds were made up well and truly before we hit the counter – we couldn’t decide between a fried shrimp and a roast beef, so we got the Surf & Turf and enjoyed the best of both worlds! We saw the monster sandwiches coming past us while we were lined up so opted to just get the one, as well as a serve of sweet potato fries and a bread pudding with rum sauce, because why the hell not?
So. Po Boy. There are truly not many foods I’d be able to justify a 45 minute wait for; this is one of those very rare exceptions. Shrimp – crispy and golden outside, tender and white inside. Beef – soft, tender, smothered in the most tasty gravy you can imagine. Bread – soft and fluffy and just crunchy enough. And perfectly dressed with tomato, lettuce and mayo. It was just a really, deliciously perfect sandwich, and I couldn’t be happier we made the trip out there for it!
The sweet potato fries were nice, but not necessary due to the size of the sandwich. And unfortunately for me, the bread pudding was smothered in cinnamon, so I had a dessert of more sweet potato fries (no, I don’t eat cinnamon. It makes me gag. Eww.), which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Verdict: absolutely fantastic po boy, easy to see why it’s always a contender for the best in the city. And not only is the food unreal, the atmosphere and experience of it all is so much fun, too! Consider it a must visit while you’re in New Orleans.