Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Ave.
New Orleans, LA
It’s been nearly two years since we first became obsessed with New Orleans’ quintessential local sandwich, the Po’Boy. Though we had heard of them before coming to Louisiana, and they are available at a few Southern spots in Chicago, our first real experience with Po’Boys in NOLA was in November 2011 at the Oak Street Po’Boy festival. That day we tried a bunch of different sandwiches, but our Po’Boy from Parkway Bakery and Tavern was among our favorite samples. We think of the festival as a pretty formative experience, and we even had a paper Parkway Bakery hat we kept as a souvenir. Though we won’t make it back to the Fest again this year, we were lucky enough to spend a day in New Orleans on our Louisiana tour, and made it a priority to seek out Parkway’s on-site offerings, widely claimed to be the best and city, produced in a restaurant and which claims to be the place where the Po’Boy sandwich originated.
A Po’Boy sandwich (short for Poor Boy) consists of a particular type of French roll, with a crusty exterior and soft interior, filled (traditionally) with fried fish or seafood (we are partial to fried shrimp) and “dressed” with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. As we learned at the Po’Boy fest, the term really encompasses a wide range of sandwiches, and the filling could truly be anything you have a taste for. Parkway in Mid City, is (thankfully) far off the tourist track, though it is certainly a popular place with locals from all walks of life. When you walk into Parkway Tavern you are first greeted by an unassuming bar and a handful of tall table. However, you can either order at the bar or at the walk-up counter and then wait for a place at a communal table either indoors or outdoors.
Parkway has a pretty extensive menu of Po’Boys, including fried shrimp, fried oyster, fried catfish, fried sweet potato (for the vegetarians among us), BBQ beef, and many more. There are non-Po’Boy options available, but we question both the sanity and taste level of those who order them. Wanting to be traditionalists on this day, we opted for the classic fried shrimp Po’Boy while M’s dad went eclectic and got a “Surf ‘N Turf,” a combo of shrimp and roast beef, considered a Parkway specialty and client favorite. We placed our order and the counter and waited patiently for our name to be called. A few minutes (which seemed like an eternity) later we were delivered our picture-perfect Po’Boys – see proof below.
The Parkway Po’Boy is truly a thing of beauty. The key to a good Po’Boy is the combination of ingredients on the crusty bread, and at Parkway, everything seemed to work in perfect harmony. The chefs care as well: even given the very high output, this was our first experience with the men behind the counter carefully double-checking our order to make sure they got everything right. And did they: the shrimp we freshly fried (turnover would seem to guarantee that), the portion was more than generous, and the toppings balanced the sandwich perfectly. We all opted for the “regular” size Po’Boys, which was more than enough: though it may be possible for a single person to finish a “large,” we wouldn’t recommend it. If you are extra-hungry there are Zapp’s potato chips and a few desserts, too. If we lived in New Orleans we know this would be one of our favorite spots. Though we always have more places to try, we can’t help but agree with the locals: The Best Po’Boys in NOLA in an unpretentious, local spot for a great price. We’ll have to make the pilgrimage every year.