Acy’s Pool Hall
1925 Sophie Wright Place, Lower Garden District
Acy’s had a sign over its bar that said it offered the best poor boy sandwiches in the world. That may have been going a little far–but only a little. The roast beef sandwich they made was certainly one of the best around. The beef component was on the verge of falling apart–just this side of debris.
But the gravy was something else. It was darker and more intense than most, and when it mixed with the mayonnaise (a natural process that seems to occur on a well-made roast beef poor boy, without any assistance from the maker or the eater), it got me right between the eyes. The fact that they toasted the whole sandwich a bit before sending it out made it everything a roast beef poor boy should be.
As luscious as that was, the dominant image that remains in my brain about Acy’s was how they served their tables. Red-checked tablecloths covered a half-dozen or so tables between the billiard tables (this was a full-fledged pool hall). The sandwiches came out on plastic plates, and when you ate them the inevitable occurred: some of the gravy-mayo surplus would drip onto the tablecloth. After you were finished, the waitress would clean up the detritus, pull the tablecloth off, whip a good pop on it, turn it over, and put it back. Then next customers ate their roast beef poor boys, made just as big a mess, and the waitress did the same thing afterwards. The same tablecloths turned over and over until, one imagines, they were on the verge of getting up and playing a game of pool under their own power.
Acy’s also made all the other standard poor boys, plus a few rarities (like the pastrami). And muffulettas. It was among the first sandwich shops to heat muffulettas, a bad idea that has become almost universal. Oh, well.
The place was almost always busy at lunch, and you just figured on waiting for a table. Or you got the things to go, which wasn’t quite as good, because they were best eaten immediately.
This is one of 122 reviews of fondly-remembered but extinct restaurants from Lost Restaurants Of New Orleans, just published by Pelican. It’s available in bookstores all around town, and full of photos, graphics, menus, and memorabilia.