The name for New Orleans’ most famous sandwich, the po-boy, harkens back to its humble, scrappy origins. The sandwich was invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, brothers and former streetcar drivers who opened a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue in the 1920’s. When streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the brothers took up their cause and created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef on French bread they would serve the unemployed workers out of the rear of their restaurant. When a worker came to get one, the cry would go up in the kitchen that “here comes another poor boy!,” and the name was transferred to the sandwich, eventually becoming “po-boy” in common usage.
Fried seafood are the most popular versions, drawing on the abundant local resources of the Gulf and bayous, but hot or smoked sausage, ham and cheese and hamburger are also common. The most unusual is probably the French fry po-boy, which simply pairs French fries, gravy and condiments within the French bread loaf. These are always the most inexpensive sandwich at restaurants that serve them. With all po-boys, remember that “dressed” means a topping of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and pickles.