New Orleans is known around the country for having some of the most unique food in the US. So one of my missions when visiting NOLA was to try as many local dishes as I could.
I figured that the best way to accomplish this is going where the recipe either started or grew into what it is now. What beats eating local?
The NOLA CVB pointed me to some of the top choices for local eats. I was traveling with my boys so fine dining or anything that required long waits would have been difficult for me. Luckily most of the restaurants that are known for offering traditional New Orleans dishes are quick and easy and, most importantly, fun and tasty.
Our first restaurant to taste was the famous and historic – Johnny’s Po-Boys. Any guesses as to what their specialty is?
Po’ boys! (And lots more.)
My favorite part of the restaurant was their order-at-the-counter style. Food comes out quickly and you can see what is being made, and simply order what looks good.
Facts about Johnny’s Po-Boys
• Johnny’s Po-boys is the oldest family owned po-boy restaurant in New Orleans.
• It is located in the heart of the French Quarter at 511 St. Louis Street.
• They have been named one of the finest institutions in the country, winning awards ranging from Good Housekeeping’s top 100 value restaurants in the United States to Rand McNally’s Best of the Road.
• Following Katrina, Johnny’s, the city’s oldest family-owned po’ boy restaurant, re-opened its doors on October 31, 2005.
• It was the first restaurant to open after the hurricane’s destruction.
History of The Restaurant
• Johnny’s Po-Boys was established in 1950 and became a New Orleans French Quarter Landmark.
• The original owners were Johnny and Betty De Grusha
• It started as a grocery store and sandwich shop at 506 Chartres.
• In 1950, to keep up with expanding business, Johnny and Betty moved to their current location.
• When Johnny’s first started, Johnny fed the workers on the River, the Courthouse, Jax Brewery, Royal Orleans, locals and the tourists.
• During those days the restaurant opened 7:00 a.m. and closed sometimes at 10:00 p.m.
• Their menu included red beans and rice, gumbo, fried chicken, meatballs and spaghetti and hamburger steak with grilled onions. These meals are still offered today.
So What in the World Are Po’ Boys?
• Po’ boys are a traditional submarine sandwich from Louisiana.
• It consists of meat, usually roast beef, or fried seafood served on baguette-like New Orleans French bread.
• The traditional versions are served hot and include fried shrimp and oysters.
• A “dressed” po’ boy has lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise. Onions are optional.
A Bit of History about the Po’ Boys of New Orleans
• In the late 1800s fried oyster sandwiches on French loaves were known in New Orleans and San Francisco as “oyster loaves”, a term still in use.
• Other names that Po’ boys have had are “peacemaker” or “La Mediatrice.”
• A popular local theory claims that “po’ boy”, as specifically referring to a type of sandwich, was coined in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Benny and Clovis Martin.
• In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers served their former colleagues free sandwiches.
• The Martins’ restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as “poor boys”. They would say “Here comes another ‘poor boy’ man”. And so, the po’ boy became a part of New Orleans cuisine.
Po’ Boy Festival
This dish is so popular and important in New Orleans that there is even a festival for it. It is called the Oak Street Po’ Boy Festival.
It is a one-day festival that features live music, arts, and food vendors with multiple types of po’ boys. It happens every mid-November along a commercial strip of Oak Street.
Information About Visiting Johnny’s Po-Boys
Address: 511 Saint Louis Street, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
Hours: 8am – 4:30pm every day