The classic New Orleans Po-Boy sandwich comes down to two choices.
I know Johnny’s Po-Boy (511 St Louis St) is nearby and now is a good time to scratch the Po-Boy itch. Johnny’s advertises self-deprecatingly that “Even My Failures Are Edible.”
Johnny’s exudes homespun shabby. Red-checked oil cloths—with tiny red crabs silhouetted on intersecting lines—cover the tables. Bottles of ketchup and hot sauce stand on each table. Ordering at the counter, Gene picks the catfish Po-Boy and I choose shrimp, both “dressed” with lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickle.
Customers pour their own drinks from the soda fountain or from the sweetened or unsweetened Nestea ice tea dispensers. A man in a white apron calls out our order number within a minute or two.
Only a few tables are occupied: a dirty young man gorges at one table; a business man approaches his sandwich more methodically at another. An older couple sits facing the red-paned window at a table that blocks one of the doors. An Abita neon beer sign in the window advertises the local brew.
Customers start flowing in more rapidly; a line forms in front of the deli counter. I expect this pace is more typical and we were lucky to beat the rush.
Our sandwiches are crusty-white-bread good. Pieces of fried shrimp and shredded lettuce fall onto my plate but that seems like nature’s course. I can only eat half, but I eat the top slice of bread from the second half.
Tracey’s: The Local Po-Boy Fave
We taxi with B. from the hotel to Tracey’s (2604 Magazine St) in the Irish Channel Neighborhood for a real Po-Boy. A car in front of us stops at a yellow light. Our cab driver swerves, then pulls up alongside the car and berates the driver. “You made me almost hit you!” Our cabbie repeats this over and over, expecting something from the errant driver, but I am not sure what.
B.says we landed the only angry cabbie in New Orleans.
Tracey’s is a musty barn with long wood picnic tables. T-shirts for sale hang around the big bar and metal signs are posted on every inch of wall space. Fancy umbrellas are suspended upside down from the ceiling.
B. explains Tracey’s owners used to own Parasol’s, located a couple blocks away. The landlord jacked up Parasols rent and Parasol’s lost their lease and the name with it. The owners packed up their paraphernalia, set up camp in the new nearby location and took Parasol’s customers with them. A Florida man bought the Paraso’ls lease and paid a pretty penny for the famous name.
Bryan and Gene have sloppy roast beef Po-Boy’s and I have the catfish Po-Boy. We share some deep fried okra. I can’t explain what is different from Johnny’s, the bread, maybe?
Tracey’s Po-Boys kick Johnny’s Po-Boy’s ass.