The food: a quarter of a muffuletta
The food: beignets!!!
The food: fried chicken and gumbo
The food: fried shrimp po-boy (the roast beef was pretty good, too)
The food: combo platter with brisket, pulled pork & ribs
The food: surf & turf po-boy
Is it possible to be homesick for a place that isn’t actually your home? For your soul to ache to go back to a little corner of the world you spent only a small amount of time in, but you feel an indescribable affinity for? Is it really possible to feel so connected to a place you’ve only visited once? Not long ago, I’d probably have scoffed at the idea; then, I visited New Orleans. You guys know how much I love Melbourne, but I left part of my heart in New Orleans – you may have noticed from how much I’ve written about it 🙂
When one thinks of New Orleans, one naturally also thinks of good food. Unique food. Honestly, it’s some of the best food in the world. And when people who know a little about the city first think of their food, one of the first things that pops into mind are the po-boys, like the Parkway one I wrote about last week.
The history of this special sandwich dates back to the Depression era when people were out of work, money was scarce, and a good meal was hard to come by. These sandwiches were created to feed the “poor boys” (hence, po-boys), and were originally something like potatoes and roast beef gravy on an amazing piece of French bread.
These days, they’ve evolved to something a bit more spectacular and creative, filling the perfect French loaves with everything from the more traditional roast beef, fried oysters and Andouille sausage, to the not so standard stuff like the cheeseburger po-boy…?!
We may not have had all that long in the city, but we certainly did our best to try as many po-boys as we possibly could! Here’s a what we tried and why you should be trying them when you visit the Crescent City.
NOLA Po-Boys (beef debris)
908 Bourbon St
This was the first one we tried, on a whim, because it was around the corner from our hotel and we were too hungry to go hunting for anything else.
– HUUUUUGE variety of po-boys available – if you can’t find something you like here, get your head examined. They literally do it all!
– Multiple sizes available, so you can match your sandwich to your hunger level.
– My beef debris came with a little cup of super tasty gravy for pouring and dipping.
– Great Bourbon St option
– The beef was tasty, but definitely needed the extra gravy to keep it moist.
– It’s not the best po-boy in the city, so if you have the time to get away from Bourbon St, you will be rewarded.
Johnny’s Po-Boys (surf & turf)
511 St Louis St
Number two was Johnny’s, and we’d heard about this place before the trip. We’d heard very good things.
– Ohh that gravy…. damn… The beef was fantastic, too, very soft and tender. The shrimp were very tasty too, nice coating.
Great bread, soft and fresh.
K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (sausage)
416 Chartres St
Next up, we visited K-Paul’s for a lunch sitting (less formal and way less expensive than dinner!) – we’d heard it was a city institution, and a must visit.
– Best Andouille sausage I had in New Orleans. hands down! Incredible flavour, not too spicy, just enough kick. Amazing!
– I quite liked the herbed tomato business they used.
Domilise’s (fried shrimp and roast beef)
5240 Annunciation St
The next few po boys took us out of the French Quarter to Domilise’s, another city holy grail. Well and truly worth the venture out of the French Quarter!
– Best shrimp I had in New Orleans! It was beautiful meat without the slightest taste of fishiness you can sometimes get when it’s not quality, and the coating was perfect.
– The shrimp also magically stayed crispy and crunchy the whole time!
– The roast beef was delicious.
– Perfect bread for it, well dressed.
– It’s not in the French Quarter.
– Best customer service!
Parkway Bakery (surf & turf)
538 Hagan Ave
Our final po boy stop was Parkway Bakery – the one we’d heard had been rated number 1 in the city over and over again. It was a long wait, almost an hour, but we figured it must be good if there are this many people waiting and no one complaining!
– The people were right, it was very good. Soft beef, big fresh shrimp, great tasting breading on them, too!
– Great bread, held up well against the heaviest po boy we’d tried.
– Well dressed, loved the pickles.
– Also not in the French Quarter.
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.
K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
416 Chartres St, New Orleans
I enjoyed my visit back to New Orleans yesterday, so I’m gonna stick with it a little longer. Back in January when I visited the Voodoo Museum, it was late in the morning and I was pretty hungry by the end of the visit. So from one NoLa classic we went to another: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.
If you have even the slightest interest in the cuisine and history of New Orleans, you’ll probably have heard of Chef Paul Prudhomme. His legacy includes several restaurant, cookbooks, spices mixes, blackened redfish, staying in the city post-Katrina where he and his team cooked over 6000 meals in 10 days for the military and remaining locals, and of course for bringing Cajun cuisine to the world. The man is a living legend, and I was really excited to actually visit his restaurant, which opened its doors back in 1979.
Seeing as we were visiting one of the classics of the city, we decided to order the classics: po boy and gumbo 🙂
We decided on the Andouille sausage po boy, which came on a soft roll, dressed with lettuce and a tomato/onion/herb salsa type concoction, as well as a side of breaded, deep fried cauliflower. Because almost everything in America is deep fried (seriously, I even ordered a tofu salad in LA thinking that’d be a safe bet to settle my upset stomach – the tofu was breaded and deep fried. I shit you not.), apparently. I really liked the sausage, and the fancied up salsa was a nice change to a classic. My only complaint was that the bread roll was a little too soft; it got soggy quite quickly under the weight of the filling.
The second classic of the meal was the chicken and Andouille gumbo. And it was magic. Honest to goodness magic. Not really sure what else I can say about it – sounds as floggy as all hell, but the depth of flavour was out of this world, the chicken pieces were so soft and tender, delicious chunks of sausage, oh my God it was perfect! If you only order one thing from K-Paul’s, make it the gumbo!
I really enjoyed the lunch service and was glad we chose to go then instead of dinner; the atmosphere is really laid back, feeling more like you’re in a familiar school canteen or something. The lunch menu is also a fair bit cheaper than the dinner service too, meaning you can eat more! Winning all round!
In a city known for incredible chefs and food, it’s pretty hard to stand out, but Chef Prudhomme has been a big name for decades for a reason; after you visit the Voodoo Museum, you should probably drop by K-Paul’s for lunch, too!