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The History of the Po Boy

If you visit New Orleans or the Gulf Coast, there’s a strong chance you’re going to run into a po boy. If you’ve never sunk your teeth into this delightful combination of crunchy bread and crisp seafood, here’s your education.

Like so many types of cuisine, there’s debate over who first coined the term “po boy” for the submarine style sandwich. Experts seem to think it originated in the early 1900s. As the story goes, New Orleans restaurant owners Benny and Clovis Martin (former streetcar conductors) gave out sandwiches to streetcar workers during a 4-month strike in 1929 as an act of solidarity with their former coworkers. Restaurant workers jokingly called the strikers “poor boys,” and before long, the sandwich stole the name. Throw in a Cajun accent, and that becomes shortened to po’ boy.

How to Order a Po Boy

I’m allergic to oysters, but fried oyster po boys are among the most popular. Other styles include:

  1. Fried shrimp

  2. Catfish

  3. Roast beef

  4. Soft-shell crab

You can order gravy on your roast beef po boy; otherwise, order it “fully dressed,” which means your sandwich will come with pickles, lettuce, hot sauce, and mayonaise. Perfection!

Where to Order One

There are dozens of po boy places speckling the coast, but they’re not all equally as magical. If you’re visiting Gulfport, I highly recommend O’Neals. Elsewhere I’d check Yelp to see what others have to say about the quality of the bread (it must be fresh and crunchy, not soggy!) and meat.

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