Where Did The Po' Boy Sandwich Come From And Why?

The Po' Boy is a staple sandwich in New Orleans. But why did this stone-cold classic sandwich first get made?
The original sandwiches were 40 inches long. Ours are smaller, but they're still out of this world.
The original sandwiches were 40 inches long. Ours are smaller, but they're still out of this world.

The USA sure has its fair share of stone-cold classic sandwiches. From loaded meatball subs through lobster rolls, sloppy Joes and jaw-challenging deli stacks, there are so many that demand to be tried, at least once.

The po’ boy is one such sandwich, and its story begins in Lousiana at Martin Brothers’ French Market Restaurant during the two-week-long 1929 streetcar strike; the two brothers responsible for founding the restaurant had spent years working in the transit service and felt allegiance to the striking street workers. This led them to the idea that they could help out by feeding them, and they started loading fillings into gigantic sandwiches - originally 40 inches long - to divide up among the ‘poor boys’. A famous sandwich was born.

This sandwich is all about contrasts. Crispy shrimp creamy mayo and crisp salad.
This sandwich is all about contrasts. Crispy shrimp creamy mayo and crisp salad.

The po’ boy has evolved over the years; now typically served on a light baguette with a crisp, crackly crust often attributed to the unique New Orleans climate, it comes in many variations, including roast beef, ham and cheese, or fried seafood such as oysters, catfish, soft shell crab and... shrimp. For the indecisive seafood lover, there’s always the half fried shrimp, half fried oyster po’ boy, known affectionately as a peacemaker.

Like all good sandwiches, the po’ boy is about contrasts: spiced shrimp hot from the fryer in their crunchy, craggy coatings; creamy mayonnaise with just the right amount of crunch and acidity from chopped gherkins and plenty of fresh, crisp salad. Choose a light, unchallenging baguette as anything too dense or chewy is going to work against the filling; a po’ boy should be very easy to eat, so sourdough is definitely not the one. Hot sauce is an essential garnish: Crystal would be the New Orleans choice but it’s easily replaced with your favourite brand. Load it up, close it up and eat it while it’s hot.

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