Oak Street Po-Boy Festival​

poboy fest


The po-boy. Something that is uniquely New Orleans. Some foodies in the city think it should be called ‘poor boy.’ For what reason I don’t know. They think it’s more accurate.


The po-boy began in the early part of the 20th century when there was a strike by streetcar conductors. A place that served sandwiches downtown would give out this creation using French bread stuff with all kinds of meats and cheeses and lettuce and tomato and mayonaisse and mustard. They would say as one of the strikers came to their place “here comes another poor boy.” They provided them with the sandwich for free or maybe a minimal charge. That’s the story at least.


In other parts of the country they might call this a “submarine sandwich” or a “hoagie.” But there is something different about the po-boy that separates it from these others.


And, like many other uniquely New Orleans and southern Louisiana creations, we have a festival to celebrate it! Where else in the world do you know of a place that has a massive festival to celebrate a sandwich?


Here’s a video I did several years ago so you can get a taste of what this festivall is all about.


So…What makes the po-boy a po-boy? The first thing is the bread. We use French bread made here most often by German descended bakers and this long bread has a crisp crust with a soft interior, so when you might into a fresh po-boy there is a crunch. This might have something to do with our water because the French bread made in Baton Rouge with the exact recipe tastes and sounds different.


Then there is what we put in the sandwich: the lettuce, the tomatoes, pickles sometimes, and we call that “dressed.” Then there is the mayonnaise (pronounced by many Orleanians ‘mah-nez’, the almost exact way a French person would say it) and the mustard, usually creole style. And then there is the roast beef, or the ham or turkey, or the fried shrimp or fried oysters. And you got yourself a delicious and nutritious meal between two halves of our wonderful French bread. And that is your basic po-boy.


But it seemed that this once ubiquitous New Orleans mainstay was going by way of the do-do bird. All these chains with their sub sandwiches, of course nowhere as good as the po-boy, were making inroads into our marvelous food culture. So some wise and enterprising people decided “hey, let’s celebrate our wonderful sandwich to help rescue it from extinction.” And now the po-boy fest is one of the most popular in the city.


What makes this especially unique is many area restaurants compete by creating their most unique and delicious po-boy. And the sky is the limit. Perhaps one of the more unique versions was the award-winning deep-fried bread pudding po-boy created by Ye Olde College Inn which still serves this as dessert. We’re talking about decadent yumminess.


And what are some of the creations that have impressed the judges over the years?  Think softshell crab, cochon de lait, escargot, alligator sausage, duck debris, crawfish boudin, and of course classics like shrimp, oyster and roastbeef- just to name a few!


The festival with music from local acts, dozens of food booths serving other fare besides po-boys, drink stations and even local arts and crafts. It’s kind of like a mini-jazz fest but people are here to eat and drink, the music is there as background. This is one of the most unique and exciting festivals in the city.


Held in the Carrollton section of the city which encompasses uptown where the river bends and St. Charles Avenue turns into Carrollton Avenue.


Check out the site for dates and tickets: https://poboyfest.squarespace.com/