A family-run po-boy joint where New Orleans beef meets Buffalo shrimp.
When people start telling me about their favorite new lunch spot these days, the chances seem dead even that it will be a gourmet burger joint, a Vietnamese noodle shop or the expansion of some well-marketed national chain. Diversity is great and new food options are exciting, but the pace of change for casual eats around New Orleans lately is enough to give pause about the future of our own homegrown food traditions.
That’s why I was excited to stumble upon Avery’s Po-boys, a hole-in-the-wall that has a few new ideas for New Orleans standards, and does the classics in a way to remind you why they became classics in the first place.
Avery’s is along Tulane Avenue near the criminal courthouse, a stretch that has long needed more entrepreneurial investment and finally seems to be getting a bit of it. The room has a bootstrap feel to it, a tidy blank slate given a few dashes of color here and there. It’s a family-run shop from first-time restaurateurs Christy and Justin Pitard. They opened Avery’s in April and named it for their young daughter. Justin is a New Orleans native while Christy is a transplant from Buffalo, N.Y.
That explains one of Avery’s primary specialties, and perhaps the best argument for driving across town to check them out: the Buffalo shrimp po-boy. Now, putting the sauce from Buffalo’s famous chicken wings on fried seafood is not a new idea, but the fidelity to detail and composition at work here makes Avery’s example stand out. The shrimp are coated in a properly tangy Buffalo sauce with more pucker than punishing heat, and the masterstroke is a chunky blue cheese dressing that balances velvety richness and pungency.
Meanwhile, the roast beef here is much more about the New Orleans side of things. The beef is of the long-simmered, falling-to-bits variety, rather than chunks or slices, and it’s more bound together by the gravy than soaked with it. A toasted Leidenheimer loaf holds it all together.
The gumbo is thick and the color of bourbon, full flavored and liberally stocked with smoky, spicy, tight-skinned andouille and long strands of chicken. If you wanted to show someone how a good, country-style gumbo should be, and you don’t have time for a quick road trip up to the River Parishes, Avery’s version makes a fine example.
Another interesting specialty is an Oysters Rockefeller dip that would not be out of place on the buffet at a fancy party. It’s about a quarter-cup of cream away from being a soup, with fresh-tasting spinach, a bite of pepper and a backbeat of anise. The dip is served in little deli containers, but it should be a contender for a future po-boy filling in its own right. Daily specials follow the traditional plate lunch schedule, with red beans on Mondays, fried seafood on Fridays and so forth, though one more thing I like about Avery’s is how often totally unique items make their way onto the specials board. One example is their fried potato salad, molded into baseball-sized orbs under a crisp panko shell.
Maybe the changing landscape of New Orleans lunch is cause for some handwringing. But, at least at Avery’s, you can keep those hands happily occupied juggling gravy-laden po-boys, gumbo and even a little Buffalo sauce.
2510 Tulane Ave., New Orleans