Hometown Hungers: New Orleans Po’ Boy

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Photo by: LauriPatterson ©Lauri Patterson

LauriPatterson, Lauri Patterson

In a city known for oversized appetites of every variety, it’s no wonder the hefty po’ boy is the sandwich that New Orleans claims as its own.

A slew of shops throughout the Big Easy serve this NOLA staple, which is typically built on a massive loaf of crisp, airy French bread churned out by iconic local bakeries such as Leidenheimer Baking Company. The sandwich can be stuffed with virtually any savory filling imaginable, but popular options include golden-brown morsels of fried seafood or a gravy-drenched mound of sizzling roast beef. Order it “dressed” and lettuce, tomato and a creamy condiment with a kick (such as spicy mayonnaise) will be added to the heap.

No one can say for certain how the po’ boy first came to be created, but one popular story credits a streetcar drivers’ strike in 1929 with setting the course for the Crescent City’s signature sandwich. As legend has it, a pair of former streetcar conductors — Bennie and Clovis Martin — kept the striking workers sustained with free sandwiches from their establishment, Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand and Restaurant. This particular style of sandwich — whose fillings were held together by thick slabs of French bread — was served to the “poor boys” on strike and eventually became popular throughout the city and beyond it.

Today, restaurants across the country are serving their own riffs on the classic po’ boy recipe. Check out Food Network’s gallery of top picks.

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