New Orleans Po Boy Shop

Cajun/Creole
$$$$ ($14 and under)
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Editorial Review

New Orleans Po Boy Shop
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

As I walked into the New Orleans Po Boy Shop in Dupont Circle soon after it opened in mid- August, one thing was immediately obvious: The owners take their love of the Crescent City seriously. A fleur-de-lis hangs on one exposed brick wall. There’s a serve-yourself pump dispenser of Cafe du Monde chicory coffee on the sideboard, and bags of Zapp’s potato chips line the counter.

Co-owner and co-chef, 32-year-old Justin Snyder of Fredericksburg, Va., was teaching an employee how to pronounce remoulade: “It’s REM-ah-lahd, not rem-YOU-lahd.”

Meanwhile, his business partner, Cam McNair, 50, of Glen Echo -- a veteran of Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans -- prepped the griddles for the lunch rush.

Together, they have constructed a menu of more than a dozen po’ boys, including longtime favorites and unexpected offerings, such as roast turkey with brie ($8.50) and a Cubano ($9). All are made with rolls from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans, which are shipped par-baked, then finished off in the restaurant’s ovens.

When I took my classic roast beef ($8.50) outside to eat at one of the patio tables, the pale, soft bread was already soggy with remoulade and “debris” -- better known to non-New Orleanians as pan gravy. For a place that boasts “It’s all about the bread” on its menu, the effect was disheartening. To add insult to injury, the chipped beef bits that filled the roll were a mushy mess, and surprisingly flavorless.

However, the po’ boy with crisp, cornmeal-crunchy catfish and big wheels of tomato, shredded lettuce and remoulade ($9) did Louisiana’s legacy proud. The grilled shrimp po’ boy ($10) is a no-frills affair, so splash on some Trappey’s hot sauce to up the ante.

Sandwiches are ready in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on when you stop by. “We’re never going to have the speed of a fast-food joint,” says Snyder, “and we don’t want to be, because the quality won’t be there. If it takes 15 minutes, it takes 15 minutes.”

The menu showcases four salads ($5 to $9), five soups ($3.50 to $8), a pleasant crawfish etouffee ($9.50) and rotating specials such as muffuletta ($8.50) and blackened catfish ($8.50).

An order of house-made beignets ($5) comes as a trio of yeasted beasts blanketed with a light snowcap of confectioners’ sugar or, for $1 more, topped with a squirt of sticky-sweet mango syrup. Unfortunately, all three orders I tried were golden on the outside yet woefully underdone at their core. Like the restaurant itself, they needed a little more time to rise to the level of Big Easy cuisine.

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Here's the thing...

The New Orleans Po Boy Shop is the closest lunch option I’ve found around downtown that resembles authentic creole food. The food is good but still a little bland for someone raised in the south. I understand they are probably catering to their local clientele’s taste, but like kadebiyi said people who eat at restaurant called TNOPBS expect the real thing and not the watered down DC version. If I could change anything I would calabash style the shrimp, add some grits to the menu, and remember what Memaw said “A little bit more of dat there hot sauce ain’t gonna hurt nobody.” That being said she would be proud of the debris roast beef.