Ian McNulty: From barbecue to vegan, wild po-boys meet classics as Po-Boy Fest returns | Where NOLA Eats
You mess with New Orleans meals traditions at your peril.
See any try by massive manufacturers to make gumbo extra “wholesome” (especially the richly reviled Disney recipe with quinoa and kale).
However right here’s a counterpoint: It issues enormously who’s doing the messing round, and why.
See the Oak Street Po-Boy Fest, which returns this Sunday, Nov. 6. This pageant takes one of many cornerstones of New Orleans meals by means of a playground of various potentialities.
Po-boy permutations that will elevate howls of indignation on social media have been they advised from afar draw throngs of New Orleans individuals keen to provide all of it a attempt in individual.
Almost uncooked, tataki-style tuna, escargot and lobster have all taken turns as po-boy components by means of the years. There are vegan po-boys and dessert po-boys.
As a result of these are pageant riffs, as a result of the individuals concocting them are locals (representing eating places, meals vehicles, caterers, even social golf equipment), and since they’re introduced subsequent to trustworthy renditions of the classics too, the entire scrumptious gambit is enjoyable and greeted in that spirit by hungry pageant goers.
Some Po-Boy Pageant creations have made the leap to common restaurant menus by means of the years, serving to broaden the thought of po-boys in on a regular basis utilization round New Orleans. However many exist just for the pageant as one-day choices.
The way it works
Po-Boy Pageant was on maintain the final two years by means of the pandemic. Now it’s again in largely the identical format as earlier than, with free admission to the music areas and road scene and a wristband purchase required to purchase meals from distributors. This format was instituted to satisfy the rising charges and manufacturing prices that festivals and group occasions in New Orleans have been shouldering in recent years.
It retains the pageant ostensibly free (you’ll be able to stroll up for the live music on three stages with out contributing) whereas nonetheless producing income to fund the pageant from the prime attraction of distinctive po-boys. That income additionally helps its group associate, Son of a Saint, a group group that works in youth improvement with fatherless boys across the New Orleans space.
As all the time, the setting is a vital a part of the pageant. It transforms Oak Avenue’s historic, low-rise hall of outlets and places of work into an open-air meals courtroom in honor of its namesake sandwich. Distributors come from everywhere in the space, together with cell ones (search for the Southerns food truck turning its fashionable, fiercely spicy fried rooster sandwich right into a po-boy this 12 months).
However Oak Avenue companies play a particular function, as we’ll see beneath.
How you can sort out all of it? In our desires we are able to eat po-boys all day lengthy; in actuality there’s solely a lot overstuffed New Orleans-style French bread individuals ought to eat.
Mahony’s Po-Boys exhibits one reply with different-sized variations and corresponding costs for its pageant po-boys (this 12 months sizzling beef sausage and shrimp with crab remoulade editions). You possibly can attempt a two-inch pattern for $4, a four-incher for $7 or an entire sized eight-inch model for $10.
Different cubicles have one measurement of po-boy, so most individuals will need to collaborate with their pageant companions to share, break up and divide and conquer their method throughout essentially the most interesting decisions. There aren’t any lack of those this 12 months among the many 40 meals distributors.
By now, long-time Oak Avenue-area eating places have advanced their very own pageant time specialties, and these are again after the hiatus.
Which means Jacques-Imo’s duck po-boy and shrimp and alligator cheesecake are again, and Boucherie can have its 12-hour roast beef po-boy and BBQ shrimp po-boy. Breads on Oak, the all-vegan bakery, is again with its personal line-up of vegan po-boys, together with one with char-grilled oyster mushrooms.
Even some Oak Avenue establishments not usually related to meals are collaborating. Haase’s Shoe Retailer, a family-run store now greater than a century outdated, can have appropriately old skool ham and cheese po-boys for the pageant.
Barbecue, different fest favs
Barbecue eating places may comprise their very own sub-niche of this 12 months’s fest.
Gonzo’s Smokehouse & BBQ, which has a deservedly devoted following out for its Friday-only lunch service in Luling, will likely be on the fest with smoked beef cheeks, brisket burnt ends and its compulsively good barbacoa boudin every configured in numerous po-boys.
Gentilly-based NOLA Crawfish King Seafood & Barbecue can have one po-boy with smoked meatloaf with pimento cheese and one other with brisket and beef tallow gravy (together with its “brisket bomb” egg rolls).
Pyre BBQ, a newcomer in Outdated Mandeville, can have cochon de lait po-boys and Rockefeller-style oyster po-boys.
Po-Boy Pageant can also be a spot to get one other style from distributors higher recognized from different festivals. The cochon de lait po-boy that sometimes sells out at Jazz Fest every spring will likely be available from Walker’s Southern Model BBQ.
Ajun Cajun, one other Jazz Fest favourite, is predicated on Oak Avenue and can deliver out its tempura-fried smooth shell crab and catfish po-boys alongside a cult favourite – the yakinuki po-boy, made with garlic ribeye beef, zucchini, carrots and mozzarella.
When the trendy Brazilian restaurant Carmo takes half in festivals, its sales space can usually really feel like an academic capsule on meals historical past and international connections. This time appears to observe swimsuit with pane cunzatu, a.ok.a. “seasoned bread” or “bread of the poor.” What began in Sicily as a poor kitchen’s method spruce up outdated bread advanced into its personal deal with, with olive oil, cheese, greens and herbs added, and choices for sardines, mortadella or a vegan mortadella to additional gown it up.
Tasting the adjustments on Oak
The array of pageant distributors additionally displays lots of the adjustments which have registered alongside Oak Avenue because the final full pageant right here in 2019.
What had been the chain pizzeria Mellow Mushroom is now the colourful Jamaican restaurant and rum bar 14 Parishes, which can have jerk rooster, shrimp or pork po-boys on the pageant.
Seafood Sally’s, the modern-but-familiar second idea from the Marjie’s Grill crew, took over what had been La Casita. Search for a smothered crabmeat po-boy with a crab fats roux and a po-boy with the kitchen’s distinctly sturdy tackle BBQ shrimp.
The Viet-Cajun-style seafood home Mukbang Seafood and Bar is now within the former house of the sushi bar Chiba, and can have shrimp, smooth shell crab and Vietnamese grilled pork po-boys.
Juan’s Flying Burrito is near opening its latest location at 8140 Oak St., within the former house of Dwell Oak Café, which closed final spring. This “Creole taqueria” is predicted to open later in November; for the pageant, Juan’s can have a stand with chorizo po-boys and blackened redfish po-boys.
The Oak Avenue Po-Boy Pageant
Nov. 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Oak Avenue from South Carrollton Avenue to Eagle Avenue
Pageant admission is free; attendees should purchase a wristband to buy meals from distributors, with wristbands beginning at $7 ($10 day of the pageant). Get wristbands on the pageant or upfront at poboyfesttickets.com.