Parkway Poor Boys
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The argument as to which joint makes the best poor boys in New Orleans was already in progress when the first crusty sandwiches began appearing in the 1930s. It will never end. But except for the complaints wielded by people who can’t stand waiting for the sandwich to be made, this vendor will always be near the front of the pack, and its works exemplify what a poor boy sandwich is about.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A novelist depicting an imaginary poor boy shop would come up with a place a lot like the Parkway. It’s on the corner of two back streets in a historic neighborhood, a half-block off a bayou. The premises are well worn, and covered with New Orleans set pieces. Your grandfather may have had a poor boy at the Parkway. You never know who you’ll run into there. Could be the mayor, could be an unemployee. Your sandwich will ever be memorable in its flavor, generous size, and inexpensiveness.
The Parkway Bakery cooks everything on the premises. (Except, ironically, its bread.) That’s less common than one might suppose, so easy and tempting is it to buy meats and gravy ready to serve. The quality of the ingredients and the recipes are good, too–and they’re always tweaking both, to get a little more flavor. The Parkway is also unusual in inventing new poor boys constantly. The turkey, dressing, gravy, and cranberry sauce poor boy, for example, was such a hit one Thanksgiving that it turns up now and then.
The original restaurant opened in the early 1920s, predating the invention of the poor boy sandwich by a few years. It was indeed a bakery then, baking French bread until sometime in the 1960s. By that time the sandwiches had become the main enterprise, and were so good that their reputation long outlived the old place, which chugged along for a couple of decades before it closed in the 1990s. In 2003 Jay Nix–who was in the construction business at the time–rebuilt the Parkway. He had a good enough idea of what a poor boy shop should be that he made the Parkway great again.
You enter from a paved yard with picnic tables, pass through the line to put your order in (there will probably be quite a few people ahead of you), then find a place to wait. The best place–if you can find an open spot–is the bar. Bars are historically where the best poor boys were served, and this one has The Feel. (The tall wooden bar itself looks ancient, but Jay Nix built it himself.) Then you sit and wait to hear your name screamed.
Louisiana Seafood Poor Boys
»Fried oysters (Mondays & Wednesdays only)
»Fried wild-caught catfish
»»Roast Beef Poor Boys
House-cooked, hot slow-roasted beef with brown gravy
Parkway surf and turf (roast beef, fried shrimp, brown gravy)
1929 potato or sweet potato fried golden brown and covered with roast beef gravy.
House-cooked roast beef barbecue, Kansas City-style sauce
»House-cooked daily turkey breast (grilled or cold)
Smoked alligator sausage
Italian meatballs with marinara
»Steamed Vienna Beef corned beef
Golden grilled cheese (grilled or cold)
Nathan’s Famous all beef hot dog
»Smoked hot sausage pork link
»Smoked hot sausage beef patty
Grilled Italian sausage link
Sweet potato fries, with cheese, chili, or gravy.
Homemade potato salad
Grilled boneless chicken breasts
Classic grilled reuben on rye
Premium smoke-pit ham (grilled or cold)
»Vegetarian: Italian Caprese (sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil
»Classic bread pudding
Fresh banana pudding
Butter rum cake
»Poor-boy ice cream sandwich
Chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip chocolate brownie
FOR BEST RESULTS
This is not fast food. They make every sandwich to order and it takes a few minutes. Although they sell a lot of take-out, it’s better eaten on the nostalgic premises. Try to remember that they’re closed of Tuesdays.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
If they consistently toasted the French bread, the sandwiches would be even better. Nobody has yet advanced a credible explanation why fried oyster poor boys are only available on Mondays and Wednesdays.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +2
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations