Time and time again I sing the song of loving all things Louisiana, and today is bound to be no different. As always, my love of the south is certainly derived in partnership with my love of food, and there is a particular dish that is worth making a note of, the Po’ Boy. There’s a method to this seemingly simplistic sandwich that dates back into early 1800s Louisiana, and while there’s elaborate gumbos, etouffees, and so much more, nothing can take away from the wildly popular Po’ Boy.
For the unfamiliar, the Po’ Boy is a sandwich shaped similar to a sub sandwich, but instead is made from French bread which is known for its fluffy inside with a crispy crust on the outside. Traditionally, roast beef was the most popular filling for the Po’ Boy, but has since come to include a multitude of choices including shrimp, crawfish, oysters, sausage, chicken, duck, rabbit, sausage, and more. Rule of thumb with a Po’ Boy is generally oriented around ensuring that it is served on the traditional baked bread.
Like most things in Louisiana, the Po’ Boy sandwich has quite the history. While sandwiches similar to the modern Po’ boy have been around the region for decades, the name was coined closer to the year 1930 by a New Orleans restaurant owned by brothers, Benny and Clovis Martins. During this time period, the region experienced a four-month streetcar strike, and many local residents lost their sources of income. During this time, the Martins’ brothers gave away sandwiches for free to out of work streetcar conductors, and would often say “oh look, here comes another Poor Boy.’ The name evolved and shortened to Po’ Boy, and the possible toppings grew and grew throughout the decades, along with its popularity.
Learning about the sandwich itself is great, but where can you actually get your hands on one, and while we are at it I can save you the step and guide you to the best Po’ Boy restaurant in New Orleans. Bear’s Po’ Boys at Gennaros is easily your one-stop when it comes to Po Boys. The restaurant started fairly recently in 2010, but with roots that go as far back as the 1970s. Although they can fill a Po’ Boy sandwich with almost anything, they work hard on their traditional roast beef Po Boys with a specialized marinade, gravy, and finished to perfection with a perfect slice against the grain. Roast beef isn’t the only thing you’ll find there when it comes to your perfect Po’ Boy sandwich, as you can also choose from nearly any type of meat under the sun, including fried seafoods, surf and turf, ham, and sausage. Bears is undoubtedly one of the most popular spots in Metairie, and has earned their reputation around the region through their perfectly made sandwiches loyal to the Po Boy traditions.
The fun doesn’t begin and end with Po’ Boys at Bears, as they have a full menu full of rich Louisiana favorites. If I had to choose a second favorite next to their Po’ Boy menu, it would certainly be tied up in all of the delicious items that are in their appetizers, just be careful with them as you wouldn’t want to fill up too early. The mozzarella sticks are great, the fried mushrooms are a must, but the absolute star of the menu lies within their famous gravy cheese fries. The fries here are cooked to crispy perfection, and then completely doused with their homemade gravy, which makes an appearance on several other menu items. Once the fries are good and covered, Bear’s adds in cheddar and swiss cheese for a full range of rich, southern flavor.
You can clearly see I’m a believer in Bear’s, but there are dozens, if not hundreds, of locations across Louisiana where you can find outstanding Po’ Boys. While I’m sure each of them has a tried and true recipe with their own twist, Bear’s at Gennaros could never lead you astray when trying a Po’ Boy or other Southern foods for the first time.