Sharing (a dozen or so of) my favorite New Orleans sandwiches on National Sandwich Day; what’s yours?

parkway-bakery

I was happy to learn, albeit belatedly, that Parkway Bakery and Tavern had brought back its amazeballs Thanksgiving Po-Boy for every Wednesday in November. The sandwich, which I profiled last November, more than lived up to its height as a must-have while it lasts:

It is as promised: a perfectly layered mix of white and dark roasted turkey meat, fluffy cornbread dressing, and a dash of gravy and cranberry sauce to add some needed zing to the proceedings. The po-boy is reminiscent of the roast-beef po-boy in that evokes that same tender dark-meat moistness, even though (I’m pretty sure) there were few small cuts of white meat thrown in for good measure. And it should be noted that, despite the dash of gravy and the moist dressing, the po-boy carries pretty well on a 20-minute car ride and didn’t become a gooey mess like the roast-beef po-boy sometimes can become. It’s not pristine, by any measure, but it holds up.”

This is also perfect timing considering that today, Thursday (Nov. 3), is National Sandwich Day, a celebration of an otherwise perfunctory and functional food type that shaped this latch-key kid’s early existence. (I still am perfectly fine stirring some mayo into canned tuna for a lunchtime repast.) You can even grab a free po-boy while they last starting at 11 a.m. at Gallier Hall, according to Biz New Orleans.

The day gave me a moment to reflect on just a few of my favorite sandwiches in the town that invented the po-boy — even if part of my childhood also was shaped by the Italian sub sandwiches (not po-boys) in my dad’s favorite hometown lunch spot, Destino’s in Gloucester). While some of my favorite New Orleans sandwiches are indeed po-boys, the city has tons of others. Here are just a few of my picks. What are some of yours?

Thanksgiving Po-Boy at Parkway Bakery — see above.
Eggplant parmesan po-boy at R&O’s Pizza Place — Diners often forget that the place with amazing gumbo and seafood po-boys also serves home to some of the most underrated Italian dishes in town (enhance by some best red gravy in town), and the eggplant parm is a big reason why.
Fried green tomato and shrimp remoulade po-boy at Bevi Seafood — As I’ve been on a kick lately to find seafood sandwiches that aren’t fried, this is a delicious compromise, which now can be found at the new Mid-City location in the former K-Jeans location. A little heavy on the Creole spices but still featuring super-fresh grilled shrimp, the sandwiches fried green tomatoes offer a delightful (but not too greasy) extra kick.
Fresh fish sandwich at The Munch Factory — Though they stop serving this by 5 p.m. — dammit! — The Munch Factory offers one of the freshest fish sandwiches in town, satisfying my search for non-fried sandwiches. Located way out Elysian Fields, it’s a great spot for dinner takeout. Just get there before 5 p.m.
BBQ shrimp po-boy at Liuzza’s by the Track — I’d like to take some credit for turning on restaurant critic Sara Roahen to this sandwich when we both worked for Gambit Weekly back in the early 2000s, though I doubt we were the first ones to write about this rich, buttery piece of work. Peppery as much as it is buttery, the BBQ shrimp po-boy allows the diner to drain the (hollowed-out) bun of its sauce, eat the grilled shrimp in the bun, and then sop up the sauce with whatever’s left. Too rich for my blood these days, I eat it only as a special treat. And then I run a half-marathon.
Seared gulf shrimp po-boy at Killer Poboys — There are lots of reasons to love this expanding powerhouse, which started in the back of the Erin Rose, but this is my favorite for the aforementioned reasons. It’s beyond fresh and includes salad-like dressings for a banh mi feel.
Hooks Cheddar sandwich at St. James Cheese Company A friend turned me on to both the restaurant and their signature sandwich a month ago, and I was grateful. One of those rare turkey sandwiches that is also loaded with flavor without featuring rich additions, but instead offers fresh basil, tomato, mayo and avocado on fresh ciabatta.
(Tie) Shrimply the Best and the Clooney’s Choice at The Milk Bar — There’s really no way to leave The Milk Bar without smiling, partly due to the ebullient staff — “Hey, I haven’t seen you in awhile; how have you been?!?!” — but also because of what should be two of the 10 best sandwiches in New Orleans. Shrimply the Best soars on its dressings: pesto, Roma tomatoes, red onions, mozzarella and lemon mayonnaise, while Clooney’s Choice sports marinated chicken, avocado, tomato, roasted red pepper, red onion, mozzarella, cilantro, and lemon mayo.
(Tie) Roasted duck po-boy and paneed rabbit po-boy at Crabby Jack’s — Few lunch spots celebrate foundational Louisiana food as sandwiches than does Crabby Jacks, and it’s not just in the seafood po-boys but also in the duck and rabbit po-boys that suggest a Cajun influence.
Pork banh mi at Pho Tau Bay — Most newbie New Orleanians get their introduction to the Vietnamese version of the po-boy as they do with pho itself at this storied franchise, and the pork is always tender and fatty.
Shrimp po-boy at Casamento’s — If I hadn’t, through some fluke of my digestive system, developed some weird and unfortunate aversion to oysters (I grew up near Apalachicola, for chrissakes!), than the oyster loaf would’ve easily made this list. But the shrimp po-boy is a delicious stand-in for me, and is the excuse I need to dive into that iconic Casamento’s Texas toast-style bread.
Muffuletta at Frank’s Place — Sure, everyone glows with praise over the iconic Central Grocery version. I like Frank’s better, especially because it was actually available for takeout one night when I had the craving and Central Grocery already had closed for the day. Frank’s Place has the bread down, and the olive salad mix down just right, with no excess olive oil.
Any breakfast sandwich or biscuit from Verti Marte — When it’s 1 a.m., ANY sandwich will do, and is cheese-packed and hot. Continue reading

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At Dook’s Place at the airport, a New Orleans-style family of fare

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(FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m related to the Chase family by marriage.)

Jason Owens and Desiree Perez hate airport food, but after room service was slow to deliver at their downtown New Orleans hotel and they had to make their flight back to Tampa on Saturday (Jan. 2), they didn’t have much choice.

“I said I’m not looking forward to it,” said Owens, an AllState employee who’d scored tickets to the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. Before departing for their flight, they decided to walk into Dook’s Place, located just to the right of Concourse B at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

Their timing was perfect. Dook’s Place, opened by Edgar Chase IV — grandson of Dooky and Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant — and cousin and executive chef Gavin Goins Jr., was enjoying its soft launch on Saturday, and so the couple feasted on Sweet Chili Wings, The Classic Burger and Southern Fried Chicken.

“The wings were really good,” said Perez, 31. “The sauce had a nice little kick to it.”

“It’s got that real good chicken,” said Owens, 34, referring to the friend boneless chicken breast that came with pickled red onions and jalapeno, along with tomato, arugula and pickles. “I was definitely impressed, especially considering what I was expecting.”

They dined underneath the kind of vivid artwork that has been a hallmark at Dooky Chase’s, which opened a spot on the other side of the airport at the Concourse C check-in a few years ago. But for all the similarities to the Orleans Avenue institution, Dook’s Place is Edgar’s in every sense of the title.

“Dook” spent a few years at Dooky Chase’s (which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016) after graduating from the “intensive track” program at Le Cordon Bleu in France back in 2008, and then after working for Entergy and having two children with his wife, Gretchen, helped open Dooky Chase’s out at the airport before starting to chart his own path. A spot nearby, but with more of his influences, seemed a logical progression.

“I worked in the restaurant with my grandmother, my mentor and teacher, and then at the airport, but it was always a place already in operation,” Chase said. “It never had my personal touch. I always wanted to do my own restaurant, to get a feel for it.

“I see myself opening a French Creole restaurant, and this is more of a casual version of New Orleans food,” he said. “It’s reflective of both New Orleans and the South. It’s Creole, seafood and soul. And it’s something that we can logistically put out at the airport knowing what customers expect in that kind of time frame.”

So while there are plenty of New Orleans staples such as Creole Gumbo and BBQ shrimp and that fried chicken, diners also can enjoy a Blackened Shrimp Remoulade sandwich (complete with a fried green tomato) and entrees such as the Grilled Louisiana Red Fish and Shrimp Linguine (dotted with Shiitake mushrooms).

As for the recipe for the gumbo?

“That’s straight off Orleans Avenue,” Dook said with a chuckle. “You know how that works with that gumbo; there isn’t a recipe!”

The blackened shrimp was plump and tender, as was the Pork Belly appetizer, lightened up by the candied yams, greens and fried pickled okra.

Goins has plenty of experience crafting seafood dishes, having spent several hears with Landry’s (both out at the Lakefront and in the French Quarter) as well as at Gordon Biersch, where he learned the discipline of operating in a corporate-run kitchen but also felt constrained by the menus. When he told some of his current and former co-workers in the front and back of those houses that he was making a move, many were thrilled to join the two cousins in their new venture.

“Everything we did, it had to have that love, but we had to get it to the guests, so we did the majority of the work that we could in the prepping,” Goins explained For example, he said, “Our pork belly has to get marinated and braised for three hours, so we do that in advance. All we have to do when the ticket comes in is to sear it.”

But when it comes to something like, say, jalapeno cole slaw, it’s gotta be made on the spot to taste fresh and not soggy.

“Everything we thought about was to have that perfect bite,” Goins said.

Dook’s mother, Alva Chase, serves as the bookkeeper.

Family members popped in an out for moral support and a meal, including Gavin Goins’ mother, Giselle, and siblings Jessica and Shane. Trevor’s twin brother Travis stopped by, as did their cousin Victor Haydel and his daughter Emily — in town from Atlanta for the holidays — with his father James.

It may be a family affair, but it’s not a humble undertaking either; Dook’s Place has a crew of nearly 30 for the front and back of the house, including a raw bar that seemed consistently cranking out places of raw oysters (along with the occasional Oysters Rockefeller).

The family influence doesn’t stop there; cousin Trevor Chase manages the front of the house and is server himself. Gretchen helped collaborate on the industrial but warm interior, with copper-framed lighting fixtures and a granite-counter bar that soft a wavy lap around the back center of the space and offers a view of the runway. (That bar features Louisiana craft beer including my favorite, Parish Canebrake, The concept was a year in the planning and then another six months of construction with the help of Perez Architects. It also features five of the restaurant’s seven flatscreen TV’s.)

“We wanted to let (customers) know you do have a lot of options when you come to the airport,” she said. “We wanted it to look and feel inviting. We wanted it to be true to what we would’ve done if we’d opened a restaurant on Esplanade Avenue.

“It’s a place where you want to come and stay.”

Until, of course, it’s time to fly.

The Avenue Pub brings the Chinese food alternative for Christmas day on Friday

Avenue Pub 1

For years, Avenue Pub owner Polly Watts figured the coolest way to have fun Christmas day was doing what lots of other Jewish folks do: eat Chinese. (And she’s got the Atlantic article to prove it.) So she little gatherings and had Chinese food and a movie for friends who either also were Jewish, weren’t into celebrating the holiday in general, or were just looking for something fun to do besides the usual family gathering.

But when it started to get a little hectic to put on — “once it gets over 15, it gets to be too many for me!” she laughed — Watts decided this year would be different. She’s moving the party over to the Avenue Pub, where on Christmas day Chinese food will be prepared by the food truck Brothers Ball. The viewing: BBC America’s airing of the “Dr. Who” Christmas special. (Check out the Facebook event page for more details.) Dinner starts at 7 p.m. (The Avenue Pub kitchen will be open from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m.)

“It really is a fun thing, and we’re just doing it for fun,” said Watts. “It gives people who want to go out on Christmas night some unusual to do and people who don’t do something on Christmas something fun to do. It all comes from the fact I’m Jewish and my family eats Chinese (food) on Christmas.” (Note: For some of my coverage of Polly Watts and Avenue Pub, watch this video.)

It’s important to remember that The Avenue Pub is a bar and not a restaurant and is 21-plus only.

Check out the menu below:

Brothers Ball Christmas Dinner
5 course tasting menu
$25
Jumbo lump won ton soup.
Fried catfish,tong cho sauce, Thai basil, mint, cilantro, red onions, hot peppers.
“Reu Bun” (steam bun)
Smoked beef cheek pastrami, house fermented Napa cabbage sauerkraut, kewpie mayo Russian dressing, Swiss cheese.
“Mapo tofu”
Tofu, ground pork, black bean garlic sauce, crispy rice cake, hot peppers.
“General Tso”
Chicken served over crispy egg noodles with carrots, onions, celery and enoki mushrooms.
Dessert surprise!

Parkway Bakery’s Thanksgiving Po-Boy: Believe the hype, and get in line

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By 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 25) — the day before Thanksgiving — the line outside Parkway Bakery essentially covered the length of its front facing Hagan Avenue, so about 15 people or so. By the time it opened, the number seemed to be about 100 people deep and stretched back up the block. Just about everyone, apparently, was queueing up for the vaunted Thanksgiving Po-Boy served each Wednesday through the rest of the year.

Getting in line for something like this felt problematic on a few levels. I follow a trend or two, I’ll confess, but this one, compounded by the notion of having to wait in line (and on the day before I was about to get stuffed anyway) felt like the dining equivalent of waiting needlessly for the next iteration of the iPhone.

Charles and Elizabeth Christy didn’t mind; the couple had gotten in line moments before I did, and were each to see what all the fuss was about. (Check out Brett Anderson’s coverage here.) “We heard they’re really good, and we’re from New Orleans and we’re crazy about food,” Elizabeth said. “So we’ll do anything, you know?” And it wasn’t like there would be much mystery, either. “We love all the po-boys here,” Charles said, and he didn’t seem fazed by the fact they were going to get up tomorrow and jump right back into the turkey feasting on the more proper day: “Because this will be a completely different experience from what we’ll eat tomorrow.”

Let’s cut to the chase: The Thanksgiving Po-Boy lives up to its hype in ways some iPhone versions never will. It is as promised: a perfectly layered mix of white and dark roasted turkey meat, fluffy cornbread dressing, and a dash of gravy and cranberry sauce to add some needed zing to the proceedings.

The po-boy is reminiscent of the roast-beef po-boy in that evokes that same tender dark-meat moistness, even though (I’m pretty sure) there were few small cuts of white meat thrown in for good measure. And it should be noted that, despite the dash of gravy and the moist dressing, the po-boy carries pretty well on a 20-minute car ride and didn’t become a gooey mess like the roast-beef po-boy sometimes can become. It’s not pristine, by any measure, but it holds up.

Much has been made of the point that, due to high demand, the po-boys run out quickly, so, if you are going to do this, queueing up with the rest of us pathetic sheep around 10:30 a.m. might not be as silly as it sounds. And for something that creates a block-long line, perhaps due to the pre-preparation going on, the wait is surprisingly brief; the procession runs almost as quickly as that at a funeral visitation (without the mourning).

I should’ve added sooner that the main reason I did this was to answer a favor called in by my wife, Faith, but at this point it would seem pointless. Yes, this is a run that should’ve been made at least a week ago so as not to compete too much with tomorrow’s festivities, but, we knew that if we didn’t do it today, we would never been in the mood after tomorrow — not to this degree, at least. (For moderation’s sake, though, we opted for the regular, 6-inch version, as opposed to the foot-long.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a nap. Some Thanksgiving traditions apply identically, whichever day they’re applied.