An exploration of a new po-boy shop with some different ideas for New Orleans' favorite sandwich, and some po-boy wine pairings too.
No matter what goes into it, the key to a po-boy is always the bread. That's the crucial difference that manifests from one po-boy shop to the next around New Orleans. And it’s the X-factor that has frustrated so many attempts to faithfully recreate a po-boy very far outside the 504 area code.
At the Sammich, a new restaurant on Maple Street in Uptown New Orleans, that bread is also the bridge connecting some elaborately creative sandwiches back to the frame of reference all lovers of po-boys share. From the shattering-crisp crust and airy compression of the inner bread loaf, the po-boys here can go from tempura fried lobster coated in a spicy/creamy/sweet glaze to a vegetarian clutch of grilled asparagus and squash and fried green tomatoes dressed in a mellow, tangy-tinged tofu remoulade.
Others have gone in this direction, most notably Killer Po-boys, the tavern kitchen inside the French Quarter’s Erin Rose bar where the small menu is devoted completely to modern po-boys. At the Sammich, meanwhile, proprietor Michael Brewer goes a step further by reimagining the entire experience of the New Orleans po-boy joint, keeping a family-friendly feel, taking the kitchen in different direction and building an eminently accessible wine bar into the program.
Traditional po-boys may have evolved from what was practical to sandwich in a loaf (roast beef debris and gravy, say) or just too plentiful to be ignored (the fried shrimp and oysters). But the menu at the Sammich reads more like restaurant dishes reconfigured for the popular appeal of the po-boy.
So, the sour tang of green tomato and grapefruit lace lean strands of braised rabbit for one, and crumbled bacon and thick planks of melting Brie cheese escort fried oysters for another, stretching the decadence of a two-bite appetizer into a meal-sized sandwich. A grilled chicken po-boy sounds boring by comparison, but the Sammich version is set apart by a hybrid heap of coleslaw and Korean kimchi.
Such extrapolations on the po-boy aren’t likely to unseat your favorite roast beef or traditional fried shrimp rendition across town. Some cravings are just ingrained, after all, and you have to go back to tradition to satisfy them. But, like so much else happening across the New Orleans dining scene today, the Sammich adds interesting new flavors to explore.
The Sammich is an open, laidback space, with plenty of character. For instance, pick out a po-boy at the counter and your order ticket is flung across the room to the kitchen on a homemade zip line system.
There are more surprises in store when its time to order a drink. A residential fridge behind the bar is crammed with all sorts of interesting wines, giving the Sammich the impression less of a wine bar and more of a joint run by a guy with a serious ken for wine who's inviting you to taste his personal collection. Po-boys have not been traditional wine pairing fodder, but if there’s one po-boy shop to try out the potential, it looks like this quirky place is it.
7708 Maple St., New Orleans, 844-726-6424