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Orleans Nails the French Fry Po' Boy in Bushwick

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All photos by Robert Sietsema

Some say the Louisiana po' boy — what we'd call a hero — originated during a 1929 streetcar strike in New Orleans. Its precursor was a demi-baguette with the innards pulled out and replaced with fried oysters, known as the oyster loaf. When the strike began, picketing workers were handed baguette sandwiches made with roast beef and gravy, but as the strike fund ran low, the roast beef was replaced with much cheaper french fries, to which the term "po' boy" ("poor boy") was applied for the first time. Eventually, po' boy was used to describe any NOLA-type hero, of which fried oysters and roast beef with gravy remain the most popular. Nevertheless, there are dozens of po' boy variations in the Crescent City.

Though over 100 places in town offer it, New York has had trouble getting the po' boy right. Often the bread is too dry or the wrong length or simply not very good. You can't use kumamotos in the oyster po' boy, though some have tried. They must be big fatties, and fried with plenty of cornmeal coating for a perfectly aligned crunch and squish. And the tartar sauce or gravy in a po' boy can't be of the canned or bottled variety.


That's why it's a thrill to find that Bushwick newcomer Orleans Po Boys has absolutely nailed the original, french-fry bearing version of the sandwich. The place is located under the M tracks at the acute corner of Myrtle and Hart, really just a food truck with a corrugated fence around it. There's plenty of counter and picnic table seating, making one wonder what's going to happen in the winter. No matter, for now the place is nearly perfect.


Eater stopped by on a recent sweltering afternoon and ordered three sandwiches. As is doctrinaire in the Big Easy, they are available in two sizes, what might be designated a shorty and a half po' boy, the latter about eight inches long, the former around five. At $7 to $10 each, the shorties are something of a bargain.


The french fry version was piled high with fried potatoes, standard diner french fries and not ones so good you'd be forced to pull them out of the sandwich and eat them separately. The french fries are ennobled by the high-quality bread, but what really makes the sandwich killer is the gravy. This is beef gravy like someone who went to cooking school might make, generously flecked with coarse-ground black pepper. A little mayo and some greenery serve to run a little interference, but also to make the sandwich unspeakably lush.


The oyster po' boy was great, too, with homemade tartar sauce and some nice dill pickles of the German jarred sort like they use in Texas's great barbecues. No sweet, homemade, Brooklyn rippled pickle chips for these folks.


A companion and I were prepared to dislike the BBQ version of the sandwich — sticky pulled beef, but it was redeemed by the coleslaw wadded on top of the meat. Even though good barbecue and sauce are anathema to each other, we're talking po' boy sandwich filling here and not doctrinaire Texas barbecue. The BBQ po' boy was trashy and we loved it.

The truck is partly the work of Oliver Vonderahe, a former Roberta's employee who has spent lots of time in New Orleans, dwells in Bushwick, and plays in a band called the Moondudes. ("We're just spaced dudes from the moon," as their slogan goes.) Well, now it's spaced out dudes making amazing sandwiches.
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603 Hart St Bushwick, NY 11221