We touched down in “the big easy” with a checklist of New Orleans cuisine and cocktails in hand.
The challenge: to find delicious versions of everything on our list—though it was anything but easy!
- Andouille sausage
- Crawfish étouffée
- Turtle soup
- And more….
And as someone who loves practically anything sandwiched between the two hinged sides of a French bread roll, you better believe I was on the prowl for a po-boy to ravage. Out of context I can see how that may sound a little pedophilic. But I assure you, all my lascivious interactions with under-aged low-income creoles was mutually beneficial and voluntary. Yeah right, I wish! The closest I got to anything remotely promiscuous in NOLA was this police horse’s giant erection, but I digress.
BACK TO THE PO-BOYS!
It didn’t matter if they were filled with shrimp, catfish, or fried oysters—though I was least excited about the oyster po-boys—I just wanted an excellent one. The perfect specimen. Something that would reset the bar for po-boy sandwiches that I’d been ordering for years at random seafood restaurants, gastro pubs, or Cajun inspired eateries anywhere in the US but Louisiana. No more pseudo po-boys. No more imposters!
And since no good experiment consists of just one data set, I pushed Jonathan to let us try as many as possible.
“Ooooh, that place says they’ve got the best po-boys in New Orleans.” I said. “Let’s try one.”
“We just had a four-course lunch.” He replied, rolling his eyes and rubbing his tummy as we wobbled down the street. “I have no more room!”
The optimist when it comes to eating, I reassured him that it’d be ok, because, “we’ll share one!”
So on that note, we asked some friends of ours where the locals go for their po-boys and the consensus was Domilise’s
Domilise’s- the Po-boy NOLA Locals Eat
First off, let me just say this “Domilise’s isn’t anywhere near the French Quarter.” That doesn’t mean you can’t get to it, but just be aware of this minor detail. In general, I think a good rule of thumb is that if it’s in “the Quarter” it’s not where the locals go. I would venture to say that when you’re visiting any city in the world, if it’s in “the touristy area” there’s a good chance it’s not where the locals go.
Domilise’s is a small hole-in-the-wall bar in a residential part of the Uptown neighborhood near Audubon Zoo and Park. If you’re planning on checking out Tulane University then you’ll be nearby. This place is a no frills and no fringe kind of establishment. They’re open most of the week, and they’re ready to fry up some shrimp, catfish, oysters, or whatever, whenever you stop in and place an order.
If you don’t notice the hand painted sign on the corner of the building, you’ll probably miss it completely. Fortunately we had our smart phones while biking through the city (FYI, NOLA is an easy city to rent and ride bikes in) and we’d worked up an appetite.
I didn’t know this until spending time in New Orleans, but you can pretty much get anything in a po-boy sandwich. I think most people think of shrimp, oysters, or catfish; but a lot of places we went to offered roast beef, sliced turkey, ham, or even tofu! Domilise’s menu is long. It’s all sandwiches, and you just have to decide the size you want (half or whole), what you want inside, and if you want it “dressed” or not (that means with lettuce and tomatoes, etc.).
Since I wanted to try two or three and I could feel Jonathan getting irritated at my excessiveness, we went for one whole sandwich, with half fried shrimp and half catfish (they offer to split the fillings if you want). And we got it dressed.
Every place puts their own signature on their po-boys and calls it “the original,” but after taking in the history of the neighborhood through decades of photos and memorabilia on the walls, I’m almost certain Domilise’s—whether it’s the original or not—is one of the classics. Places like this (IE: no natural foot traffic) don’t last if they’re not awesome.
The bread was light and white with a slight crackle to the crust. They lettuce was shredded iceberg, and instead of tomatoes, they use ketchup. The catfish and the shrimp had been soaking in batter since that morning when they prepped everything (you can see it all in the fridge next to the bar), and then they dredge everything in flour just before it goes in the fryer. Nothing feels too heavy or greasy either.
This sandwich was everything I wanted it to be. There was no fighting over shrimps, because there were tons of them! The catfish was moist and flaky and again, plentiful.
Next time I’m back in NOLA, I’m finding the time to stop in at Domilise’s. And in the meantime, I wear the shirt I bought from the chef who made my sandwich, and people around the country who know a good po-boy stop and say “I’ve been there….the best!”
Killer Po-boys in the French Quarter
And if you’re unable to get out of “the Quarter” because your wasted from a walk down Bourbon Street, or you’re just looking for a delicious meal and drink while you’re walking around the historic district looking at all the art galleries, there’s Killer Po-Boys.
Our second favorite place for po-boys in New Orleans, Killer Po-boys is literally a hidden gem, as it’s a small restaurant (counter more like it) in the back of the Erin Rose Bar.
Step into Erin Rose and walk past the bar to the back past the cigarette vending machine (yeah those still exist). On the left is a window where you can order one of several po-boys of the day. These po-boys are like the hipster more “contemporary” version of a po-boy. We really enjoyed their seared gulf shrimp po-boy, which had thinly sliced pickled carrots and radishes, cilantro, and a mayo-based sauce reminiscent of a Vietnamese banh mi. They also have glazed pork belly, meatloaf, and usually a vegetarian option with tofu or some veggie in season like roasted eggplant.
The menu changes all the time, but the setting can’t be beat. You can grab your food to go, or enjoy it at one of the high-tops in the room surrounded by murals of what I’m assuming are Killer Po-boys regulars. It reminded me of the opening scene in Pretty Woman when Vivian finds Kit in the Blue Banana….again, I digress.
And the perfect accompaniment to a killer po-boy is a frozen Irish coffee. This is actually a frozen beverage that won’t make you feel sick, and it’s delicious. Erin Rose is known for their frozen Irish coffees and they pack a punch. So much better than anything you’ll find in a yard-long neon goblet with straw from any of the places up on Bourbon Street (just a block away).
Been to New Orleans? Leave us a comment below with your favorite po-boy recommendations.